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  • First year growing - renter problems!

    Hey all,

    I'm new to the forum, and to growing food in general! My girlfriend is the black thumb from a family where growing food and raising animals is normal. Meanwhile, I grew up in a dingy, rainy ex-industrial town in the north, it just wasn't a thing we did. Now we've moved in together and have a garden that gets sun in places, we're seeing what we can do.

    One pleasant surprise is that what we initially thought to be a slightly overgrown hedge turned out to be a large wild blackberry bush. Beyond that, though, as our house is rented (and especially as the landlord sends a teenager to mow our lawn every few weeks, which will almost certainly ruin anything we put into the ground), anything we want to plant will have to be container based. Additionally, because our house doesn't have double glazing (hurray for renting!) I'm worried that my house will be too cold to grow plants effectively on windowsills without spending a fortune on heating.

    At the moment I'm aiming to grow tomatoes and chillies, a small selection of herbs, and maybe some soft container-worthy fruits like strawberries or blackcurrants this year. Any suggestions would be welcome!

    So for now I've put a few (ring of fire) chilli seeds in compost in a propagator tray, two per section, watered it to damp and placed it in the airing cupboard inside a sealed sandwich bag.

    I have a cheapo windowsill propagator - and I've ordered a heating mat for use with it. I'm hoping this will at least get my seedlings to potting-on stage without them all dying off - but I'm still a bit worried about what happens after that.

    So, specific areas where (I think) advice is useful;

    1) If my house is still cold, will I have to use a similar hardening process to that used to move things from the house to outside - i.e. a few hours in the house and then back into the warmth, etc.?

    2) As I am limited to container growing, how do I know what size final pots are needed? I've tried to look these up, but they often seem vague and unhelpful. Will planting in an undersized container just cause stunted growth and low yields, or will it kill my plants off entirely?

    3) My kitchen window doesn't get a great deal of direct sunlight. Can I keep anything alive on it, or am I stuck with my herbs and so on in the living room?

    4) As I can't build a proper greenhouse, how can I make sure a mini/temporary one doesn't blow away if it gets a bit windy? I have a few old pallets in the garden that I was considering securing a temporary greenhouse to, and weighting it down with sandbags or something. What do you guys think?

    Cheers for any help you guys can give!

    Jonny

  • #2
    Hi Jonny, if it were me I'd wait a month , then when it's a bit warmer start growing with a view to grow every thing in pots/planters/growbags. Easy to move if you do and protected from random lawn mowers.

    Comment


    • #3
      Hello and welcome to the Vine, Jonny.

      To answer your questions in order:
      1) Yes, you will still have to harden things off. Your house will be warmer than outside temps, especially at night.
      2) The size of pots you need depends on the plant you're going to put in it. There's no one-size fits all. By and large, the bigger (think courgettes) and deeper (think potatoes) the plant, the bigger the pot you'll need.
      3) Some plants do better out of direct sunlight, so depending on the plant, your kitchen might do fine.
      4) I can't answer this, but if you have a search, you might find some answers to this. It's a problem lots of people have.

      If you can't find the information you're looking for, start a new thread with a fairly specific title. This will make it easier for people to identify whether they can help you.

      General advice: you haven't put your location in your profile. There's a world of difference in climate between northern Scotland and the south of Cornwall. Depending on where you are, it could be way too early to start certain plants off, though that never stopped some members here (see Vegetable Chicken!). If you add your location to your profile, people will be able to give better targeted advice.

      Good luck. Hope you have lots of fun growing your own.
      Living in north-east Spain, where the sun is too hot, the rain too torrential, the hail too big, the wind too windy and the snow too deep.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by burnie View Post
        Hi Jonny, if it were me I'd wait a month , then when it's a bit warmer start growing with a view to grow every thing in pots/planters/growbags. Easy to move if you do and protected from random lawn mowers.
        Hi burnie,

        Thanks for the response!

        I've read around a bit and I think you're right, so I've held off on everything else for the time being. However, from what I've read, reasonably hot varieties of chillis should be planted earlier in cold climates, else there's a risk they won't mature enough to bear fruit by the end of the season. Is this not the case or have I misunderstood something?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Snoop Puss View Post
          Hello and welcome to the Vine, Jonny.

          To answer your questions in order:
          1) Yes, you will still have to harden things off. Your house will be warmer than outside temps, especially at night.
          2) The size of pots you need depends on the plant you're going to put in it. There's no one-size fits all. By and large, the bigger (think courgettes) and deeper (think potatoes) the plant, the bigger the pot you'll need.
          3) Some plants do better out of direct sunlight, so depending on the plant, your kitchen might do fine.
          4) I can't answer this, but if you have a search, you might find some answers to this. It's a problem lots of people have.

          If you can't find the information you're looking for, start a new thread with a fairly specific title. This will make it easier for people to identify whether they can help you.

          General advice: you haven't put your location in your profile. There's a world of difference in climate between northern Scotland and the south of Cornwall. Depending on where you are, it could be way too early to start certain plants off, though that never stopped some members here (see Vegetable Chicken!). If you add your location to your profile, people will be able to give better targeted advice.

          Good luck. Hope you have lots of fun growing your own.
          Hi and thanks for the pointers!

          I'm in Manchester.

          I did actually try to edit my profile several times to include this info but it keeps telling me I lack the authorisation.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hi Jonny and welcome to the wonderful world of Grow Your Own.
            Lots of us grow veg and fruit in pots - one of our favourite pots is referred to as the MFB, or Morrison's Flower Bucket!. Morrison's sell about 8 used cut flower buckets for 99p and they're a good size to grow lots of veggies - spuds, carrots, tomatoes, salad leaves. Next time you're in the store, snap up a few and make some drainage holes in the bottom or sides. Use a couple of bags of compost or growbags to fill them, and you've started your Allpotment. http://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/gra...ent_93105.html
            By the way, everyone mocks me on here (like Snoop Puss ^^^) because I do things differently, so when I say I've sown my cucumbers and courgettes in January, its not what sensible people do. If others support me and say they do it too, its probably "sensible" advice and you could try it, if they all call me Nuts, its best you don't try it.

            You won't be able to add your location to your profile until you've made a few more posts, but you could tell us where you live in as that would help us to help you.
            Happy gardening.
            A Chicken walks with small steps. Be more Chicken
            https://gardenchicken.blogspot.com/
            @realveggiechicken

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi Terobi and welcome!

              A propagator, even with a heat mat, is only good for germinating seeds. You'll have to take the seedlings out as soon as they're up. So I also advise sowing non-hardy veggies later, unless you have growlights or a heated greenhouse or conservatory. Maybe in March, or for tomatoes even April because they grow faster. I'm not sowing mine yet for sure. You might not have such sunny weather in Manchester but your plants will love the the long daylight hours of summer.

              Ring of Fire should do fine in containers. I also recommend you try lemon Drop and/or Aji Omnicolor. These are Capsicum baccatum, a differernt species from the more usual C. annuum peppers and chillies. They are easy to grow and can tolerate cooler conditions once they are mature plants, and can be overwintered more easily for a quicker start the next year.

              They are also just as good for cooking, or maybe better, before they are ripe, so lack of ripening isn't such a problem. These two varieties are more compact than many of their species, though Lemon Drop is less compact that Aji Omnicolor. Both do well in flower buckets and can be very prolific as well as decorative.
              .
              Last edited by Zelenina; 01-02-2018, 10:30 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi Terobi, I can't add anything to the above but welcome to the Vine

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hi Terobi. I gardened for years in pots before I had my own garden, there are loads of things you can grow! Soft fruit is quite doable, particularly blueberries (need acidic potting soil) and currants. I would consider salad veges as they are super easy to grow and you can save a lot of money on supermarket bagged salads. If you want to grow outdoor tomatoes and chillies from seed and you don’t have a warm, bright place in your house, the two things that made this possible for me were an electric windowsill propagator (chillies won’t germinate without heat) and a light box with grow lamps for growing on the small seedlings until it’s warm enough to plant them out - usually around late May where I live, June in the north. Even if you have a greenhouse this will be too cold at night for tender seedlings. If that sounds too difficult you could consider buying small plants rather than starting from seeds - the company Simpson’s Seeds has a good range of chilli seedlings for example. I would say tomatoes and chillies are some of the more difficult crops for beginners, they do need a lot of attention to detail.
                  Last edited by TrixC; 02-02-2018, 09:39 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hi and welcome Terobi!

                    Regarding your heat mat, heat without lots of light makes plants go leggy (etiolated, if you're feelin' fancy), so you probably don't want to use a heat mat under your windowsill propagator once seedlings have germinated.

                    When you say your house is cold, how cold are we talking? Southerners say it's cold cold? Geordie girls put a coat on cold? 12C feels cold inside, but it's not going to kill chillies. They might grow a bit slowly, but that's all.

                    For your kitchen windowsill, without seeing how much light it gets, it's hard for anyone to say; probably best to just try it, and if your herbs start looking leggy or just stop growing and sulk, then move 'em to a sunnier spot.

                    You never really know with plants unless you try, ask Veggiechicken
                    My spiffy new lottie blog

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Terobi View Post
                      Hi burnie,

                      Thanks for the response!

                      I've read around a bit and I think you're right, so I've held off on everything else for the time being. However, from what I've read, reasonably hot varieties of chillis should be planted earlier in cold climates, else there's a risk they won't mature enough to bear fruit by the end of the season. Is this not the case or have I misunderstood something?
                      This is true but you need a sunny side window sill (south facing). Once he plants germinate you need to reduce the undersoil heating or they become 'leggy' where they grow tall and thin trying to find more light which just isn't available in February. Also much later when the Chillies start to flower you need to shock them into reproducing by not watering for about two weeks. The plant decides to reproduce before it dies and so you commence fruiting, you can then recommence watering to sustain the plant.
                      i hope that makes sense.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        If you’re wondering about the size of final pot/plant size,looking at the square foot gardening images online,getting some 12” wide pots at least,will fit all the plants shown in the diagrams. Home base & b & q sell black buckets for £1 I grew one melon per bucket last year,would’ve been better in a bigger pot though. Tomatoes & sweet peppers did alright in the buckets,that size is fine.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Hi Terobi,
                          Welcome to the world of Rented GYO! 😁

                          I too live in a rented house, which is not the warmest (as you say Yay for renting), and our garden is completely laid with decking, so EVERYTHING has to be container grown.
                          We moved in last May, and I didn't really think about the garden until Mid June, as we were away for a few weeks. So I missed a lot of the season for planting from seed. This year I am more prepared!

                          Our garden gets sun throughout the day, one half in the morning, and the other half in the afternoon and evening, and for this reason, most things grew like crazy last summer.

                          I had some massive success with Chillies and tomatoes, although as they were started quite late, some of the fruits didn't quite ripen before the temperatures dropped.
                          With the chillies, I had most of them in 4 or 5 inch pots and they still flourished. There was one which I potted up to a 9" pot and this particular plant (a Spanish red chilli, not 100% on the exact breed), was absolutely & insanely covered in chillies.

                          In my experience, some plants will struggle if they are under potted. My toms needed larger pots, around 9-10inches, but some herbs and chillies were happy in 4 or 5" pots. I played it by ear with most of them, and only potted them up if I felt they needed it. There is no one size fits all.

                          In terms of starting things off, I have a cheap windowsill propagator, which I just use until things germinate. Then the lid comes off and they are placed on a window sill in the sun (whichever window offers the best light). If they start to look a bit limp, I just sit them back on the base of the prop with the lid off and make sure they are well watered/fed.
                          Once the weather warms enough, they are introduced to the greenhouse gradually, which is a simple cheap plastic one from Wilko's.
                          I have a few rocks in the bottom of this to help prevent it from blowing over. I also find if you place stronger plants in the lower levels, this helps to balance it out. You don't want it too top heavy, as that will lead to it toppling over. I also placed in it the most sheltered area of the garden to try and offer some break in the wind. It's up now, and has stayed up in the recent winds 😁.

                          Much like you, my kitchen window doesn't get any direct sunlight, other than in the height of Summer. As we have a row of 4 spotlights in the kitchen, we purchased a UV bulb, which just helps the plants whilst it is darker, greyer and lacking true sunlight.
                          This was about £13 on Amazon, and is really helping my basil, coriander, and a few sapling citrus tree's through winter. They will all go back outside when its warmer.

                          Depending on what you hope to grow, and how much you want to spend, Wilko's have some good value products. I have just picked up some Hessian vegetable & herb bags, which are deep enough to do things like garlic, onion etc. Check out their website or local store, as they also do some keenly priced pots. Although a word of warning, they often do not have drainage holes, so remember to drill a few in before you fill it with compost.

                          I hope this helps, although I am sure I have repeated some answers from other members, but good luck with getting everything going. It's a lot of fun!
                          Keeping track of my gardening antics, success, failings & faux pars https://mytinyenglishcountrygarden.wordpress.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Just one addition to the great advice above- I too garden in containers. My first year mistake was not to consider watering. Containers, especially smaller ones, dry out very quickly on a hot day and once compost dry out, it's a bit tricky to get wet again. On a basic level, start gathering stuff that can be used for saucers and have a search on the vine for lots of great ideas. You can easily find a way around it but it's easier to do now than in a sudden heat wave (oh how I long for a heatwave right now).

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by More basil View Post
                              Just one addition to the great advice above- I too garden in containers. My first year mistake was not to consider watering. Containers, especially smaller ones, dry out very quickly on a hot day and once compost dry out, it's a bit tricky to get wet again. On a basic level, start gathering stuff that can be used for saucers and have a search on the vine for lots of great ideas. You can easily find a way around it but it's easier to do now than in a sudden heat wave (oh how I long for a heatwave right now).
                              Great point, and I got around this by using empty plastic bottles buried 2/3 into the compost, and pierced with several small holes. Then you just fill the bottle and let the water penetrate down into the compost and root ball. Also a good tip if you are going away for a few days and have no one to water your garden for you.
                              Keeping track of my gardening antics, success, failings & faux pars https://mytinyenglishcountrygarden.wordpress.com

                              Comment

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