Small Space Gardening: Tips for a Successful Container Transplant

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After weeks of carefully tending my little indoor greenhouse, the time to transplant to the big beds on the balcony was more than overdue. Seeing as this was my first adventure in solo gardening, I was filled with trepidation...after all, I have managed to kill succulents, the "un-killable houseplant." Read on for the tips that helped me pull off a (hopefully) successful transplant.

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  1. Pick the right containers. This might seem like a no brainer, but it's worth saying as it's so important when it comes to balcony and patio gardens. Make sure you choose the right containers for the growth pattern specific to your plants. Some plants like to sprawl, others grow down into the ground and require containers that are deep as opposed to long.

    For example: pick something deep for your carrots and long for your sprawling strawberries. I shopped for my containers at my local Home Depot, which was where the very kind "Louise" helped me choose the right ones for what I wanted to grow. Want her to help you? She's since been promoted to one of the horticulturist experts that are available by calling 1.800.home.depot...now isn't that nice?
  2. Pick the right dirt. The right soil matters a lot. Some mixes are made to go into the ground and are great for trapping moisture, others are made for containers and help prevent rot from overwatering. Make sure to pick up the right kind not only for your plants, but also for your type of garden.
  3. Transplant at the right time. Sadly, it seems like I waited far too long to move some of my plants, in particular my summer squash, into the large beds. I'm hoping that they will recover and will stop looking so droopy, but alas, they might be lost. Don't let this happen to you — once you have a few inches of sprouts, be sure to transplant so your baby plants don't get tangled roots.
  4. Transplant carefully and at the right depth. Because some of my plants had very long and tangled roots, getting them out of their original containers was tricky. When you move your plants, make sure that you don't break any roots! Also refer to the seed packet for the proper planting depth. A common mistake newbie gardeners like me often make is planting them too shallowly into containers. While a shallow depth may be right for some plants, it's definitely not right for all, so check before planting.
  5. Check the weather before watering. I should have checked the forecast before giving my newly transplanted plants a nice watering, as I woke up the following morning to them being drenched. Of course plants out in the wild get drenched all of the time, but those are not in containers. I'm hoping that they will be ok, but I'm a little concerned about rot. In addition to being aware of how rain affects the watering schedule of your container garden, also ensure you have good drainage in your containers.

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What are your tips for keeping a balcony or patio garden healthy? What are other pitfalls I need to avoid as a new gardener? What pests should I worry about when gardening on a high-rise balcony? As you can tell, I still have a lot of questions and am happy to learn from seasoned balcony gardening readers!

(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho)

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