I live in the country but my heart’s in the city, and my one and only children’s book is about a little girl who lives in the city and can’t understand why the flowers she’s given die. I do understand how important every soft turn of green is when you live in the city, and love to hear about my friends’ balcony gardens. I’m no expert, but I also grow plants in pots and thought I’d share a few tips:
–Use the largest containers you can. Small pots dry out at a speed you won’t believe, and either you’ll go mad watering or break your heart over dead plants.
–If you’re in an area with cold winters (yes, like the Berkshires!!), consider putting pots on wheels so they can be brought indoors in the winter. Keep your tender herbs (rosemary, scented geraniums) in pots so you don’t have to buy new plants every year. I’ve tried the plant-‘em-in-the-garden, dig-‘em-up-in-the-fall approach: no good if you’re anything like me, with a few other things going on in your life.
–See this as a way to grow plants that are perennial in warmer climates. They’ll do well outside in the summer, and give you a ready-made indoor garden in the winter. I’m going to indulge my love for plants like bouganvillea and four-o’clock, which grow outside year round in Santa Barbara (where I went to college), but are wildly exotic here.
–Buy nonpeat potting soil—peat is an ecological no-no!—but definitely do buy potting soil for your pots. Plain garden soil does not work well in pots—it’s just too heavy. I know this from sad experience!
–Plant seeds as well as already grown plants—this saves money and is lots of fun. (Let’s face it: growing a plant from a seed is magic, nothing less.) Looking for trailing and dwarf varieties of easy-to-grow flowers like zinnias, marigolds, and nasturtiums. And plain old parsley is both beautiful and useful, a hymn to William Blake. (Soak the seeds overnight and be patient. It’s said they have to go to the devil and back before germinating—and trust me, that’s probably the only gardener’s old wife’s tale you will ever hear from me. Somehow that one stuck in my head.)