A green space for urban gardeners

Care and maintenance of plants in the urban container garden

The dead blooms on this geranium need to be removed for aesthetics and to promote new flower production. (Click on image to enlarge.)

The dead blooms on this geranium need to be removed for aesthetics and to promote new flower production. (Click on image to enlarge.)

I remove the flowers that form on herbs like this Thai basil periodically.

I remove the flowers that form on herbs like this Thai basil periodically.

In some respects, we urban container gardeners have it easier than those of you with lush, never-ending yard gardens.

For example, there are no raccoons, squirrels or deer nibbling away at the plants of my 10th-floor Chicago balcony garden. And I never have the wits scared out of me by slithering soft-bodied invertebrates or slippery gastropods.

Weeds? Unless delivered by way of a seed dropped as one of our feathered friends buzzes overhead, weeds just don’t exist in my world.

But, in order to keep our small verdant spaces looking pristine throughout a long summer, even container gardeners have to suffer through deadheading and other routine upkeep necessary to keep the garden at its best.

My work consists of  pinching off blossoms that are past their sell-by dates from flowering plants (or deadheading), removing brown or yellow leaves from the various ornamental plants, and clipping away some of the flowers from herbs when they begin to impede the leaf production.

While the deadheads and brown leaves are of no use to me (remember, I have no space for composting), I’m happy to say that some of the flowers produced by herbs — such as the purple blossoms on the Thai basil pictured here — can be incorporated into recipes prepared with those herbs.

The flowers provide an attractive finishing touch that gives dishes a little something extra. (I’ll share a recipe using basil flowers before the summer is over.)

One veteran gardener friend of mine advises removing some of the flowers from tomato plants to concentrate the plant’s energy for a heartier crop… I’m contemplating whether or not to follow her dictate on one of my heirloom plants, which has tons of flowers and tomatoes, but none have ripened yet. What do you think?

[For a lesson in deadheading container plants, check out this YouTube video…]


  Stephanie wrote @

Hello Avis! that’s a very good video. Looks like flowering plants need a lot attention if we want them to look good all the time. Sorry I am not familiar with tomato plant, hence not able to comment on the flowers. But generally, I would always follow my own instinct 🙂 Btw, your Geranium leaves are beautiful too. Happy deadheading your flowers and have an exciting weekend!

  linda wrote @

Hi Avis, another strategy I’ve read about is to prune the growing tip of heirloom tomato plants, as this will re-direct energy used for developing foliage into ripening fruits. As it happens just this past weekend I tried it on one of my yellow pear tomato plants. There were no fruits ripening on Saturday when I did it. This morning I checked, and a cluster of tomatoes is almost fully ripe in just two days after removing the growing tip. It could be coincidence. (I’ve been removing suckers as they develop all summer.)

My garden isn’t in full sun, so I’d expect the tomatoes to be slower ripening. I may try this with another plant to see if I get similar results. I have at least two of each variety I planted, so it will be interesting to compare results. I have several yellow pear plants, so maybe I’ll try disbudding one and see what happens. I love experimenting with plants, and I don’t want tomatoes all ripe at once anyway. I’d love it If these techniques helped hasten ripening, and if done selectively if they helped spread the harvest over a longer period.

  City Diggity wrote @

I’m going to go out right now and try your tip on one of my heirloom plants. Thanks!

  David Stillwagon wrote @

good video and great looking blog

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