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5 things I learned while planting my patio garden

My patio garden

My patio garden

I have finally finished planting my patio garden, and I learned a few things about apartment gardening along the way:

1. 20 feet of garden hose attached to a kitchen sink is not a good idea, however brilliant it may seem at the time.

This I know from experience. There are multiple things wrong with this idea. Yet, when I came up with it I felt like the guy that invented sliced bread. The main issue here is water pressure. After attaching my hose, uncoiling it, dragging it across the kitchen, dinning room, and living room to reach the patio, and finally attaching the sprayer end I walked back through the house to turn the faucet on. I was a little concerned the hose would do that thing where it dances on its own like a charmed cobra so I ran back outside only to see that nothing was happening. I shook the hose, nothing. Checked it for kinks, none. Then I looked into the sprayer just as water began to come out…about 3 minutes after I initially turned it on. You may be thinking that I got a face full of water, as my face was only inches from the sprayer when the water came out. Nope, sorry to disappoint you. That would make a great story, but the water pressure was so low that only a drizzle was coming out the end. It would have taken me 3 hours just to water every plant! The other issues I discovered with my hose plan? While you are outside trying to get the hose to work better a trickle of water will be leaking down the hose to form a giant puddle on the kitchen floor. Oh that and the fact that you then have to carry a hose filled with water through the whole house to avoid it spilling on the living room rug. The moral of the story? Kitchen sinks are not meant for hoses.

2. Just because you are 5 feet from your door while working in your garden does not mean you are immune to sunburn.

You may feel safe from the sun’s rays just knowing that shade is a few steps away, but the sun is still relentless. And yes the cute wide brimmed straw hat you bought yourself last summer will keep the sun out of your eyes, but it will NOT protect your whole body from sunburn. These familiar and comforting things trick you into a false sense of security, and then when you come inside white faced, but with a pale x created by your tank top straps painted across your lobster red back, you will not find it comforting to hear your boyfriend’s ill timed “x marks the spot” as you catch your reflection in the mirror. Sunscreen is the patio gardener’s best friend.

3. There is no easy way to fill 30 pots and planters with potting soil  on a second floor patio.

This was not something I even bothered to think about when I first planned my patio garden. I was more worried about how to find enough pots, and what kind of plants I would grow. But after the 30th trip up the steps with a 40 lb bag of compost I really started to reconsider my garden. I began sacrificing plants on the patio and saying to myself “you can always get peppers at the farmer’s market.”

4. Even if your garden is 20 feet off the ground, it doesn’t mean it is immune to pest problems.

Sitting on your couch and watching a squirrel dig up your kale plant out the window is a surreal experience. What is even more surreal is when that same squirrel doesn’t run after you bang on the window…or after you open the door. I found that a little netting held up with some sticks will keep them out until the weather warms and they find other food sources.

5. Wire coat hangers can make an excellent hook for trellis netting.

Trellis netting hung on my brick wall

Trellis netting hung on my brick wall

I had grand visions of climbing beans and peas going up the side wall of my apartment, so I ordered 30 feet of trellis netting without having a way to hang it. A brick wall, in a rental apartment is not an easy thing to hang a trellis off of. It took a lot of failed attempts and swearing before we finally settled on attaching coat hangers to the edge of the roof and using the hooks to tie the trellis to. It works amazingly well. Wire hangers. Amazing things.

While I have clearly had some issues starting my patio garden I really love it! We just had some friends over to grill out, and being able to sit on a patio surrounded by plants is a great way to escape the heat inside (no air-conditioning!) on a hot summer night. Well worth all the hard work…as are the delicious things I am growing in it!

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