In the Garden: Is your patio up for pots?

Dear Anne,

I am in a seniors residence with a very large patio. There is talk of doing container gardening here. But no one really knows how to create this.

Olga Sorenson, Vancouver

If your patio is above ground, you’ll need to ask your manager or strata council if the structure will stand the significant weight of soil.

It’s best to begin with just a few containers because the first year will be all learning. Even in containers there’s thinning, weeding, pest patrol, watering, harvesting and crop rotation.

One important bit of learning is co-operation. Sometimes a few people do all the work while the others visit and cheer.

I’d suggest half-barrel size containers because soil dries out less in these. Also in winter, the roots of plantings in the middle are less susceptible to freezing.

It’s essential all your tubs have drainage holes in the bottom. A piece of landscape fabric or several layers of plastic mesh will stop soil from migrating out of the drainage holes.

Some patios have drains for excess water, but balcony patios may need protection under pots so water is contained.

It’s best to learn not to over-water and to never let soil dry right out unless you’re growing dry-land plants. Dry soil has a sneaky trick of shrinking away from the sides leaving a narrow fissure all the way round the inside of the pot.

This allows water to cascade down and out of the bottom. Meanwhile, the dry soil in the centre stays dry. If this happens, dig very small holes in the soil surface where water can pool. Fill them frequently until the soil is moist throughout.

For a container garden all you need is a small shovel, a trowel, a small garden fork or rake. Stakes, tomato cages or a small trellis are optional depending what you plant.

Once the containers are in place, you can begin loading them with topsoil from garden centres. Check whether fertilizer is already added. Leafy vegetables like high-nitrogen fertilizer.

When you go to get the containers and soil, it’s best to go when the nursery isn’t busy and make a point of chatting to one of the assistants. If you talk to them about gardening in containers, they’re very likely to tell you things you’d have never thought to ask.

Dear Anne,

I learned from my parents “Never pick rhubarb in a month with an ‘R’ in it.” This is quite different than your rule about picking until early June. Does it develop too much oxalic acid after that?

Pat Pepperman, e-mail

The rule about not picking rhubarb after early June is one I learned as a child in England. I was told it tastes better in early spring and gets stringy and dry later.

But here I was told rhubarb develops higher levels of oxalic acid in summer. Our summers are hotter. That would make a difference to rhubarb.

A lot of gardening practice can be adjusted by what a person does culturally. I’m sure if you water rhubarb diligently while picking it, the moisture level in the stalks will be higher and oxalic acid lower.

Frankly, rhubarb roots are so huge and strong, it may be irrelevant exactly what one does when.

I’d say keep right on doing what suits you best. Just like adjusting cooking recipes.

Thanks for sharing – that’s one of the joys of this work.

 

Just Posted

Suspected spill kills hundreds of crayfish, coho in Langley river

A fish kill in the Nicomekl has a biologist concerned for the health of the local ecosystem.

Rams harvest sweet victory in win over Huskers

The Chilliwack team found itself pushed back again and again.

WATCH: Cops for Cancer bring message of hope to Langley school

Young cancer survivors are traveling with the fundraising bike ride.

Boxing coach takes shot at Langley City council run

Dave Allison has lived downtown for years and wants to represent his neighbours.

Langley venue of glass provides bright stage for charity art show

West Fine Arts Show runs Friday to Sunday at South Langley’s Glass House Estate Winery.

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

Aldergrove soccer forward enjoys scoring spree

UFV Cascades’ Jhaj named Canada West second star of the week

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by B.C. animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for shelter and local municipal election

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Lower Mainland city calls for slower trains near popular beach

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said ‘it’s the least we can do’

Most Read