THE PATIO GARDEN: Gambling with Sunshine and Shade

I wouldn’t particularly call myself a novice gardener, but I am truly a novice 'Patio Gardener', and I must admit, it was quite a task to plan the placement of the planters and monitor the total amount of sunlight on both the back and front patio. It would be quite an easy task if I lived in a north facing home with a nice sunny space, however, being new to apartment living and also still being at the beginning of Spring, I understand that the total amount of sunlight hours will definitely change the closer we get to Summer.  Understanding “my space” is definitely more challenging than I initially thought.  The less sunlight hours the less healthy some vegetable crops will be.  Although leafy and root vegetables will tolerate less sun if they must, any fruiting vegetable won’t.

Admittingly, I started feeling a bit deflated.  Having to also take natural elements like the famous Western Cape wind into consideration turned out to be a definite biggie!  Especially after the recent storm that almost literally blew my planters away.   My back patio receives a lot of morning and early afternoon sun but is not sheltered from the crazy Western Cape winds, which could create some havoc at times.  Although my front patio receives a direct hit of afternoon sun it could turn out to be quite scorching and deadly.  But here again, it is a lot more sheltered from the wild-west-wind. 

Having taken all this into consideration, I subsequently decided to propagate certain vegetables indoors using grow lights.  I might even have to invest in some grow lights to counter the effect of too little direct daily sunlight, but we will see how it goes.  Thankfully I do have the benefit of using our Seeds for Africa grow room as well as the wealth of horticultural and technical expertise available from our qualified staff.   Already lovingly sheltered in a propagator, my veggies are closely monitored in which feels like a neo-natal ICU with all the grow lights, tents and propagators!  As a teenager would rightly comment: “Totally Next Level!”  Our grow room will be the home of my developing cherry tomatoes, Swiss chard, spinach, baby eggplant, carrots, Brussel sprouts and baby corn for the next few weeks, until I will be able to take them back to my apartment to transplant them into their forever home!

The sugar snap peas, baby eggplant and honey-nut butternut will be propagated in a nice sheltered and sunny corner on the patio.  I would like to think that these are a bit hardier and will initially be able to endure the elements.  I am hopeful!

I particularly chose Freedom Farms Seed Starter Craft soil for germination.  These soils are formulated for optimal plant growth, performance and root health.  I love that it provides perfect aeration which in turn provides optimum oxygen exposure to the roots.  Furthermore, the coconut coir pith which has an added benefit of high water holding capacity. The added base mineral blend will ensure long term calcium and trace element availability with an exceptional pH stability.  Definitely worth my while!

Supposedly, the easiest to grow will probably be the herbs, leafy- and salad greens.  I found a sunny spot on the windowsill where the garlic chives, oregano, basil and rosemary will hopefully soon rise to the occasion. 

Armed with my notebook to jot down the progress and development as well as any challenges and difficulties I might face, I feel a little less deflated.    Who said that this was going to be a clear-cut easy exercise?  They say patience and perseverance is golden.  Well, I will wait and see.

About the Author

Michele Fourie is the Seeds for Africa General Manager. Michele loves growing beautiful flowers, chilli plants and is passionate about exceptional customer. service. Michele is also a fundi in the kitchen. Check out her blog post on making your own sweet pickled piquant cherry peppers at this link.