Growing Veggies on the Veranda
By Brian S.
Fresh vegetables are easy enough to come by from an outdoor fresh market or the neighborhood grocery store. However, organically grown vegetables can be expensive and many of the vegetables favored by foreigners, if not overpriced, are sometimes lacking in either quality or freshness.
Since most of the vegetables that you’re likely to eat can easily be grown organically or otherwise, why not consider cultivating root vegetables, a summer salad container, or a collection of fresh herbs without benefit of an actual garden, inside a container on your balcony, patio or veranda?
All you need is an appropriately sized container, potting soil, seeds, fertilizer, water, sunlight, and a modest amount of time. The type and quantity of the vegetables you can grow is limited only by the size of the container, the dimensions of your balcony, and the number of seeds you are willing plant.
Containers for a garden-less, vegetable garden can literally be anything that holds dirt. Think flower pots, wooden boxes, plastic storage containers, wash tubs, buckets, etc. Because they absorb heat, which can damage a plant’s roots, avoid dark colored containers or paint them a lighter color.
Make sure that each container’s size and depth is appropriate for the type of vegetable it will contain. And ensure every container has adequate drainage. This is easily accomplished by drilling, puncturing, or cutting a series of holes in the bottom, covering the holes with shards of broken crockery, and then using wooden blocks or bricks to raise the container a few inches off the ground.
As far as the soil for your garden, don’t dig up the nearest vacant lot! Go to a nearby nursery or home center and purchase a commercial potting mix. Peat based mixes that are pH balanced and contain vermiculite are recommended. Mixing in one part compost for every two parts of potting soil will improve the soil’s fertility.
If you are planting a tall or climbing vegetable that will require a stake or trellis, it’s best to install that at the time of planting. If you do it later, you’ll risk damaging the plant’s roots.
In regards to seeds in Pattaya, Big C on Second Road and Big C Extra on Central Pattaya Road both offer a modest selection of vegetable seeds. The outdoor ‘garden market’ that takes place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, next to Mini Siam on Sukhumvit Road, routinely features vendors selling a broader selection of vegetable seeds.
By the way, at the garden market you’ll also be able to pick-up virtually everything necessary to start a ‘container garden’. However, if you are looking for vegetable seeds that just aren’t available in Pattaya, you may need to order them online.
Check out: www.plant-world-seeds.com in the U.K. or www.burpee.com in the U.S.A. Placement of the vegetable container is of prime importance. Try to place it where it will get the maximum amount of sunlight, or move it throughout the day to follow the sun.
Most vegetables require a minimum of five full hours of sunlight every day. However, the crop yield will be much higher if the plants are exposed to eight hours of sunlight or more.
Leafy vegetables and those raised from their roots, like carrots, beets and radishes are able to tolerate partial shade without any harmful side effects. Growing vegetable plants love good air circulation. A good breeze helps prevent fungal diseases, but too much wind can damage tall and trellised vegetables. Raising the containers off the ground will make them more difficult for harmful pests to reach.
Most commercial potting soils already incorporate fertilizer in them. But since vegetables need more nutrients than ordinary garden plants an organic or slow working vegetable fertilizer, not a run-of-the-mill lawn or garden fertilizer, is a must. Use the fertilizer as directed and pour it over the container’s soil mix.
Despite regular watering, if your plant appears to be growing slowly or lacks good leaf color, or if you’ve been using an organic fertilizer, you’ll need to supplement the plant’s diet with a liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion. Be careful not to over fertilize your vegetables, as that will only result in additional foliage which reduces the plant’s ability to produce produce.
Vegetables grown in containers requires more water than those planted in the ground.
This means at least an inch or two of water each and every week. Remember that as the plants and their roots grow, so does their need for water. In addition, in very hot climates like Thailand, in order for the vegetables to flourish, plants will require more water than normal.
Vegetables don’t really require much care but they are unforgiving of neglect. Once you get your seeds planted and the containers situated properly, you’ll find they require very little maintenance.
To enjoy fresh, home-grown vegetables, all you need to do is ensure they are watered properly, keep an eye out for pests, and fertilize them as needed. Easy.