Hey! I’m Aja Dang and I’ve collaborated with Epic Gardener Kevin Espiritu to give you his top 5, best beginner tips for apartment gardening.
This is an transcription of an interview that was given by
- Kevin: So the number one thing plants need is light. Everything else doesn’t matter, like the water, the pot, any of that is just totally wasted. So the light is the most important thing, so we’re looking out right now is this balcony, which is a South facing balcony.
So probably most of you are watching the Northern hemisphere, which means that South is the best direction because the sun rises, the East sets in the West, which means South has sun all the time.
Aja: So what was that thing that you guys used to see what direction we were in?
Kevin: There’s what you can use called the suncalc.net and it’ll actually like throw the sun over your, your address and you can see exactly how it flows, which is kind of helpful. Yeah. And you can do it throughout the year too.
So could see like whenever wherever you put your phone. So you’re pointing this way right now it’s coming down to the South cause this is cargo like North, South, East, West. Yeah. So, South is the best direction because you have full sun, right and full sun is something gardeners use when you basically need like eight or more hours, which kind of like alot of direct sun.
Kevin: Which unlocks like all, all of the summer crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, like all that stuff which you can actually grow here. So I would say that’s rule number one.
Aja: So we were saying how I was living on the opposite side, and i have no light, so I wouldnt be able to grow anything.
Kevin: No, you can for sure grow stuff, but let’s say the hours of sunlight from like nine until like fourish. You could grow maybe only like leafy greens and herbs.
Aja: So it can still grow, what matters is like what you can grow.
Kevin: The more that you have, the more ability you have to grow whatever you want. And there’s such a thing as too much but it’s not, it’s less of a problem too little.
Kevin: So tip two is grow until you actually like to eat, which sounds really dumb. It sounds really obvious but I’ve been in a lot and I’m sure.
Aja: When I read it I had a huge list of things, I was like..ooohh.. I dont eat like radishes. I dont need that. Yeah.
Kevin: People do it all the time because we want to grow things that are cool. I do it all the time. I’d grow things that are cool then I’d be like “okay, well how do I actually eat this?”
Kevin: So, tip three then is, it’s kind of like the hierarchy of plans, like what’s easy to grow and what’s hard to grow. So a good rule is if you’re eating a leaves, it’s going to be an easier plant to grow because it just doesn’t require as much to get to that point like lettuce or like herbs. Any of that really easy.
Next easiest is probably like a root crop.
So, like your onions, your carrots, your radishes, your turnips, and then you get into your like tomatoes, cucumbers because you’re eating a fruit of all those plants. It just takes longer to grow.
There’s more space, there’s more things that could go wrong, you know, but nothing, you shouldn’t do it. It just means if you want a guaranteed win some lettuce grow, some bazel over and just start, you know, get a success and then like move up there.
Aja: Yea, get success. Thats what we’re hoping for. I’m going to tell you. Kevin: Yeah, for sure.
Kevin: Tip number four is probably one of the most common questions you would get is like, okay, what soil do I actually get at the store?
Aja: Because your book is all about mixing things, and I was like “ok you’re getting too complicated”.
Kevin: Yeah, you know what I realized is that, one thing isn’t in the book, because the book is so simple and its for beginners; I realized I didn’t offer any suggestions of like, “okay just go to the store and buy like this”.
Aja: Yea, I just want to buy something.
Kevin: Yeah exactly. So if you want to buy, there’s things to know about the garden center is like if you get a garden soil, potting mix, compost, those are all different things. They kind of all sound the same. So if you’re going to buy stuff, like if we’re going to go buy stuff for or balcony right now we want potty, that’s the best thing. Or like a vegetable mix. If you get garden soil it’s kind of like this weird mixture of natural soil. It’s not that good. You would never just only grow in that. And compost is like only nutrients and not a lot of like the good stuff that the roots need to hold onto and stuff.
So, you want to go get potting mix, it’s more expensive but you want to get the highest quality you can find it. Because besides light, soil is the second most important thing. So like you wouldn’t put bad food in your body and expect you to give you ripped, you know what I mean? Like that not going to happen. So the same thing would happen with your plants. So, I would get like a nice high quality organic potting mix, which will probably can be used for both.
Aja: And potting mix can be used for everything that we talked about? More like flowers
Kevin: More or less everything. There’s definitely some exceptions. Like blueberries would be a low pH, plenty that need something special, but we’re not growing it, we’re keeping it basic.
Aja: We’re keeping it basic, oh, plant mix.
Kevin: Potting mix.
Kevin: The fifth tip is the container that you want to grow in. And so there’s kind of like a couple of things you need to grow in a container that has enough space for the plant that you actually want grow. Like I said, with like a root crop, like a carrot, if it’s going to go down like this, it needs to be at least that deep, right? So there’s those types of considerations.
Things like a tomato, you want to have a big enough container that the roots can actually be in it and you’ll get a good crop. Right? Or like for a tomato to can grow really tall sometimes, you need like a trellis for it, otherwise, it’ll just fall over and then you’re sad, right?. And then besides that you need like the right material. So, you can get plastic, you can get metal, you could get wood or you could get terracotta which is like a clay.
I usually go with either a plastic if I know I’m going to use it for a long time cause I’m not wasting it and it’s just durable more, or I get a terracotta clay because its the number killer which you’ll probaly end up doing becaise eneryone does it. It’s over-watering; you’ll water too much and you’ll kill it. You know?
Aja: That’s my other question. When do you know when to water?
Kevin: Yeah, so terracotta is nice because it’s porous and so like it evaporates off the side. So you kinda can’t over-water. Eventually it will just kind of spill out where it’s plastic with no holes in the bottom and it’ll just sit there and just rot. So those are five basic tips. Of course there’s more but those things will kind of keep you on the right path because, when you start out just over-complicating it is what will make you be emo and not try to kick off.
Aja: I know and that’s why we decided to just stick to the balcony because we were talking about the patio or I showed him the patio and he was like “no, start small”.
Kevin: Your patio is so big there’s too much to do it. So we’re going basic over here.
Aja: I definitley see myself going little big because I was like looking up raise bed.
Kevin: On the patio you could do raised bed.
Aja: We have to start small first. Follow up questions. So how often do you water? Is that like for herbs or whatever and then two, do you have to re-pot them eventually? Like down the road.
Kevin: No. If you choose the right container at the start for herbs you’re fine. And then how often if the water is a hard question to answer. It depends on a lot of different things. So, basically the idea is most plants like soil that is somewhat moist all the time. You don’t want to let it drop too much.
Do you want to let it be over soak like we just talked about what I want to do is I kind of just stick my finger down and look and say like, okay, three, four inches deep, it it wet still; and if it’s not, I’d be like, okay, I need to probably get it with a little drink.
And then eventually you want to just build the success. You’ll see the plant. Maybe it’s wilting a little bit and you’re like, okay, I need to water Aja: I think I can do all of this.
Kevin: You definitely can.
Aja: So this is my cut down list of things that I wanted to get because like I said, I kind of started off going crazy and then it was like, no, just go to eat. I’m like, oh, okay. So we have like a list of, I don’t know, 15 things, which are all like mostly are herbs actually; mostly herbs and over here, so I guess we’ll see.
Kevin: Onions and garlic we’ll probably skip for now, but everything else is a possibility at least, We just have to see what’s at the store.
Aja: Okay, cool. So we’re going to head over to home Depot.
Kevin: Yep. That’s like a good one for everyone. They actually have a really good garden center so it’s a solid spot to go for anyone. Yeah.
Aja: Cool. I’m so excited.
Aja: First, bring everything to the patio.
Kevin: Lets get them outside so we’re not making a mess in your kitchen. We can put the tomatoe probably right here. Yeah. So this is good because East, I think it’s that way. And so like the morning comes and just hit it all day long. This one’s easy because this was potted up. There’s soil already in it. You’re good to go.
Aja: And it’s already wet so you don’t have to water it.
Kevin: This one is like a set and forget it. You will, you know, just not yet. Aja: How tall? Kevin: Atleast around here.
Aja: When was the last time you wore gloves?
Kevin: The first time I ever bought gloves was two months ago. Yeah. I’ve never had. We’ve got drainage holes on the bottom of this guys. So that means that we’re not gonna like suffocate plants and water by over-watering. So all we really need to do is just fill it out, which is pretty basic process. Kind of smash it out a little bit.
Aja: How much do you fill it up to?
Kevin: I usually do just a little bit below the top, especially for this container, it’s just kind of shallow, so we want as much soil as we can get. But, what we have to remember is we’re putting plants in us, right? We can just throw it up right now.
We got to put the plants in, then we’ve taught the rest. So the basic idea here is you just want to kind of like hold it like this, squeeze this a little bit to get it out. And then you can see these roots are kind of spiraling around, so you kind of like loosen them up just a little bit. Nothing too crazy.
You’re not going to hurt the plant if you do that. And then you just want to make sure you get it. You don’t want it sticking out. You want the soil level to be where the soil will eventually be, and so you’re good.
Aja: Well we have to take the plastic off. So when you do get compost and stuff. You just put it in your soil?
Kevin: Yeah. Usually what you’ll do is listen, you’ve been growing in this for awhile and you’re ready to kind of refresh it: you might pull these plants out, put some new ones in and add a little bit of composting because anything that’s growing is stealing kind of from the soil. You have to give something back. Give it some more nutrition.
Now we’re kind of like set up but we still need to add a bunch of soil. So what I would do is I would grab your little spade, this is what this is for, come through and then just kind of fill around until it’s up at that height. You can use your hands too do that then it’s pretty easy. Yeah.
That’s why it’s always good when you start to just buy the plants cause it’s kind of like if you start going into the gym or like dead lifting 500 pounds, no one’s doing that. Right? Yeah.
So, it doesn’t make sense to do that in something like gardening and you guys want to start get a win. This would be like going for a walk. Just simple. What I like to do now is there’s like air gap there where right now and so it’s kind of like just give it a little, yeah see how it settles now?
Aja: So we kind of fill it more?
Kevin: Alittle more, not quite all the way, beause then when you water it’s going to be really annoying because it will just spill off. So when you water, the best idea is you use, don’t want to like just slash the way up because it’s wasted; you’d want to just go next to the root.
Aja: Is that how it is with all plants?
Kevin: Not all the most, it’s just a good rule of thumb.
Aja: How much water? You might give it a little more because remember this soil has never been wet right. That’s what I did for that one. Easy from now on. It’s just I would, yeah, I mean you can put water in here too, but the point is because the roots right there, you know, eventually once it’s kind of growing and you’ll want to just like come straight down a line, just water everthing.
Aja: How much water do I put in? It’s hard to say. It’s like basically you want it like here for example. You see how it’s kind of still gets wet down there.
Kevin: You’re good. So like about that much that you just put in, it’s kind of like a field thing, you know? Usually the general rules like an inch a week, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense for most people because it’s based on rain.
So that’s why I don’t give those recommendations now. Okay. So we put mints in their own container for an angels guardian says mince can go crazy. Like if you put, if you were to put mints in there, they would just take over. They send these things called runners kind of out and they just take over.
Aja: I think this one’s stuck. Kevin: You may have to rip those off. That is a really good example though, of almost what you don’t want to see because the roots are so well loose, you can almost rip some off the bottom because it’s just too much.
They’re spiraling around, which was just not healthy because when you put it in here they just sit there and won’t do anything. Just loosen it up a little bit. There you go. That’s fine. Excellent. There we go. So we can put the mint right there, we can put the lavender right here and herbs maybe in front cause they’re lower. At least for now. They won’t block it.
Kevin: Honestly, this is such a good balcony, because you could put them over there too. But you could have done this exact same thing over there. The only reason why maybe now is because this door blocks it. So this is like your spot for now and if you ever get anything for the railing, literally the whole thing is usable if you want to.
But, dude, there it is. Okay. Baby garden. So let these grow in a little bit like the Herb’s at least it’s just whenever you start getting tomatoes and you start eating like this, I would let it grow for like any, at least a week or two, get established. And then from there you can start, you know, snip, snip, whatever.
Aja: I’m so happy.
Kevin: It’s way easier than people think. Especially when you don’t do like the fancy way you just do. Yeah, just do it basic. If you like this later on you have a whole patio, you have a whole railing. You can do whatever you want. Go crazy for now. This is a good start.
Aja: Thank you.
Kevin: You’re welcome.
Aja: All right everyone. Here’s the update of our baby garden. Here it is. I got this from, Oh it rained this morning. Ooh. Yay. You guys got healthy. Still a little damp, so we don’t need to water anything.
But I got this from Amazon. It’s actually kind of flimsy. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but I got it cause I’m actually gonna get some, like plaques and they need to be hung, so I wanted it here. But here is everything right now.
We still don’t have any tomatoes yet, but probably in the next couple weeks, maybe when I get back from Vancouver or Toronto, we’ll have some to make our plans.
But anyways, here’s our beginner garden. The whole process was so easy. I would definitely recommend it. I’m going to try and find some planters for the railing and fill out this railing with flowers, maybe. But guys, I think I got the bug. So more videos of this to come. Once we start making more progress on the balcony. I’ll keep you guys updated. Hope you guys learned something.