Patio Gardening

The following is a post that was in my draft folder for a couple of years. 

I shouldn’t complain about how little space I have to grow in.  In urban areas, a condo can be almost indistinguishable from an apartment. There, all you have are some rooms on an upper floor. No yard at all. In those cases you would be lucky if you even had a balcony. There you could at least have containers – pots, urns, etc. Fortunately, our condo is in the suburbs and so we have a little scrap of land around it.

When we first moved in, I was somewhat intimidated by the rules of the condominium compact. They state that all land around the units is held in common. That meant it wasn’t really mine to do with as I wish. That required a real change of attitude from owning a house. Since we had a small patio on the back, it seemed reasonable to buy clay pots and grow in them.

Many years ago, I came across an article on container gardening in Italy. In cities that have be established for hundreds of years, there is little or no open ground to grow in. There was a picture of  a large stone-paved plaza and a number of large terracotta containers arranged like a garden. We took that idea and lined the edges of our patio with clay pots. After the first year, I realized that the small 6-8 inch clay pots I had bought dried out quickly during the day, subjecting my plants to water stress. The obvious solution was to get bigger pots. After all, bigger pots equals a larger mass of soil which could hold more moisture.

It took a couple of years to realized that clay, despite its aesthetic value, wasn’t the best material in our situation. Since we had so little room, the pots and soil were left outside during the winter. In the spring, I would find some of the pots had cracked or pieces had flaked off caused by freezing. The flaking wasn’t bad in itself – gave the pots a weathered, rustic look. But after a few years of this the pots were falling apart.

Strangely enough, I had the most success with terra cotta colored plastic. (I know, I know… It is heresy for a gardener to succumb to using plastic pots… but I’ve been using the plastic for ten years now with only a crack or two in all that time.)


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