Container Gardening

It’s always nice to have members from a fellow garden club presenting! Lucette Wesley and Syl Davis from the South Burnaby Garden Club gave an informative talk on growing vegetables in containers. Many gardeners may not realize that a big plot of land is not a requirement for growing vegetables.  In some ways, containers can actually have several advantages. Even a high rise apartment can have a successful container garden and Syl’s balcony is proof of that!


Here are some of the tips we heard.
*Choose a large container with good drainage holes. Plastic should be certified safe (1,2,4,5). Plant caddies with lockable wheels are the best.

*Use organic soil (they recommend a brand called “My Soil” rather than Sea Soil – see below for more information ) or mix your own. Their recipe is: 5 gallons fully mature compost, 1 gallon sharp sand, 1 gallon vermiculite or perlite, 1 gallon ground peat moss. Add fertilizer and mulch to keep the moisture in.  Replace every 2-3 years.

*Fertilizer should be added once a month. Use organic 5-5-5 or 5-6-5 for tomatoes and peppers.

*Regular watering is vital and plants should be checked daily in hot weather. Water in the morning and keep it off the leaves.

*Direct sun is needed 5-6 hours a day for most vegetables. Plant caddies help you move the containers to follow the sun if necessary.

*Cool weather vegetables include carrots, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, and salad greens. Warm vegetables include beans, corn, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, squash. Perennial slow growing herbs include chives, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme.  Shade tolerant herbs include chervil, chives, lemon balm, meadowsweet, mint, parsley.  You can also grow fruit like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, satsuma oranges in containers too. Asparagus is a fun plant to grow, but you can’t eat it the first year.

*West Coast Seeds has excellent guides for knowing when to plant your seeds.

*Pests can be a concern at times but remember that some insects are beneficial! Good bugs include ladybugs, praying mantis, nematodes. Of course there are many bad bugs!  It pays to keep watch when you water, remembering to look at the underside of leaves as well. A good spray of water will remove most pests. Be sure to use organic methods for edible plants. Lavender, marigolds and borage are plants that discourage pests. Haven’t heard of borage? It has fuzzy leaves and blue edible flowers!

*Syl has proven that even a high rise balcony can become a garden! Apartments do have a few special considerations though. For one thing, you need to be careful about not letting water, or debris, descend on your neighbours! Choose plants that suit the amount of sun you receive (south facing balconies are generally too hot). 18” pots are a minimum size so that plants don’t freeze in the winter. Pot rollers (caddies) are a huge help when trying to move your plants in and out of the sun during the day.  Be sure to choose good quality types that have locking wheels.  Lee Valley has an excellent watering system with a 50 foot hose that will attach to the kitchen tap!


“My Soil” is a brand made on Vancouver Island by Cinnabar Valley Garden Supplies.
GardenWorks is a local nursery that sells “My Soil”.

Lee Valley has an affordable hose system suitable for decks or small areas.,2280,33160

Northwest Landscaping (Byrne Rd.) carries an excellent (although somewhat expensive) Australian made plant caddy that will support up to 500 pounds.