Imagine creating a lush landscape right on your apartment patio or balcony. If you’d love to start your own garden, but don’t have much space, try container gardening. Not only will you be able to grow your fruits and vegetables, but you’ll also be able to add charm and elegance to your outdoor space with greenery and fragrant flowers.
Even if you have plenty of outdoor space, you may live in a region where the climate isn’t conducive to gardening. Container gardening allows you to compensate for arid soil, cold weather, or even blistering heat. Because you can move your edible or flowering plants easily when you cultivate them in containers, you can often provide better conditions for a bountiful harvest or beautiful blooms.
What is Container Gardening?
Container gardening is simply using pots and planters to grow plants instead of putting them directly in the ground. You can use potting soil or potting mediums like perlite in your containers.
Container gardening goes back many thousands of years and became a part of urban living in some of the earliest in the Ancient World. In 604 BC, Babylonia created its famous hanging gardens by gardening on top of stone columns. China developed bonsai cultivation around 200 AD, growing dwarfed trees in tiny planters. Ancient Greece saw rooftop gardens, and avid gardeners haven’t slowed down since. The desire to bring nature into our living spaces is an age-old instinct.
Some Benefits of Container Gardening
Whether you live in a small apartment or a large suburban spread, container gardening can solve a number of problems for dedicated gardeners. Depending on where you live, growing a decent crop of vegetables can be a struggle. Some vegetables are very fussy about temperatures and will refuse to fruit. Others can bolt if the temperature rises just a few degrees. It can be maddening when all you want is a nice salad from your balcony garden.
Better soil quality
The first benefit of container gardening with vegetables is that you have better control of the soil quality. Rather than betting your whole crop on the quality of your yard dirt, you can give each plant the type of soil it needs directly. Some vegetables love acid soil; others prefer sandy soil. You’ll also be able to limit the amount of fertilizer going into the environment.
More control over light and temperature
Another benefit is the ability to move cool-weather vegetables into the shade or even indoors if it gets too hot. Lettuce, spinach, and broccoli are all known for bolting when it gets too hot. Tomatoes are fussy about getting rained on. When planted in containers, it’s easy to move either under a nearby overhang or even a tree for shade or protection.
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Extend your harvest
With containers, you can start your garden plants in the depths of winter. All you need is an inexpensive shelving unit and grow lights to create an indoor garden. Once spring is sprung, and temperatures are mild, you can move the plants outdoors to enjoy the long hours of sunlight. And best of all, with container gardening, there’s no reason to stop the party when the first frost falls. Move your vegetable plants indoors to extend the harvest.
Gardening in small spaces
If you have absolutely no space for gardening outdoors, containers make the basis for a vertical garden. Commandeer walkways, balconies, and even window ledges to grow your favorite vegetables or flowers in the tiniest spaces.
How to Get Started with Container Gardening
The first steps in creating a container garden are to decide where you’re going to place them. You’ll need to know how much room you have, how much sunlight you can expect, and what kind of rainfall you’ll receive if you plan to depend on it for irrigation.
Placing your container garden
If you’ve never gardened to any extent, you may want to start with only a handful of plant types with similar requirements. Once you have a space picked out on your patio garden, balcony, or front porch, you can check throughout the day to see how much sun it receives. Full sun is six to eight hours of sun exposure, while partial sun is three to five hours per day. Once you have this information, you can choose your plants.
Choosing container plants
Some plants do better in containers than others, although some will surprise you with their adaptability. Whether you’re growing from seeds or purchasing seedlings, keep the size of the mature plant in mind when choosing them.
For container gardening, you may want more compact varieties. For example, while everyone loves to grow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes may be more manageable in a container than larger varieties. Bush beans do better in pots than runner beans. Herbs do well in containers, as do strawberries, bell peppers, and leafy greens.
It seems like a no-brainer, but the type and size of the container impact your harvest and the health of your plants. With that in mind, consider the following when choosing containers.
You can start many plants in smaller containers and move them up into larger planters later. However, for most vegetables and annuals flowers, this isn’t your best plan. Any transplant can cause shock to a plant, and with a short growing season, many vegetables will not produce before winter if you keep moving them. Whether your use seed starter trays or buy seedlings, once you have planted well-developed seedlings with their first true leaves, it’s best not to disturb the roots more than once. With this in mind, use the largest container possible for your vegetables or annual flowers. They may look a bit silly while waiting to “grow into” the larger pot. But, it’s much better for the plant.
Here are some common vegetable plants and their minimum required pot sizes. However, keep in mind that you can plant multiples of some with a larger container.
- Broccoli: 5-gallon pot per plant
- Cucumbers: 1-gallon pot with trellis or cage
- Lettuce: 1 to 5 gallons, window box-shaped
- Peppers: 2-gallon pot per plant
- Tomatoes: 3 to 5 gallons per plant
- Bush beans: 1-gallon pot per plant
- Cherry tomatoes: 1-gallon pot per plant
As part of the décor, it’s natural to want attractive containers for your garden, especially if it sits on your patio or balcony. You’ll want to achieve a harmonious environment that you’ll be proud to show off. That said, some materials are better than others for container gardening. Although more expensive doesn’t always equal better, in this case.
For example, natural materials like stone, clay, and terra cotta are very attractive and lend a classic look to any garden space. However, they’re also very porous, which means you’ll need to water more often. Plastic pots hold water better, and you may find some with attractive finishes at your local garden center. Plastic is so much lighter to pick up. However, if you want stone or clay planters, you can always put a slightly smaller plastic pot into a stone pot to retain that elegant look. You can even top it with mulch or Spanish moss to hide the plastic pot.
Other things to consider with container gardening is the color of your pots. Dark pots, like the black ones commonly used for landscape plants, absorb heat. This keeps the roots warm. But, keep your climate in mind. In the South, for example, this may cause more harm than good. If you live in a hot, sunny environment, such as hardiness zones 9 through 11, you may want to stick to light-colored pots.
If you live in a colder climate, you may want to stick to those darker pot colors. For potted perennial flowers that winter outdoors, a black or dark brown pot can help keep their roots warm during a freeze.
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Make your own garden containers
If you want to take a fun and creative approach to your gardening, try making your own planters by recycling old containers. You can make plant starters out of old soft drink 2-liter bottles. After washing and removing the labels, cut them in half and poke holes in the bottom for drainage. Then use the top of the bottle for a humidity dome. This creates a mini terrarium, perfect for starting seedlings indoors before planting outside.
There so many ways to recycle and upcycle old things to make container gardening a whimsical, eclectic adventure. We used an old rusted Radio Flyer wagon to plant flowering ground covers. Old crates, utility sinks, even dented cookware make charming planters. And you don’t have to limit it to human-made objects. Hollowed-out logs can hold flowering plants, while stones with indents and seashells are perfect for mosses and succulents.
Tips for Successful Container Gardening
Container gardening is slightly different than planting directly in the soil. Depending on your gardening goals, it can be a bit more time-consuming. If you’re planning to grow vegetables in containers rather than a garden patch, you may need to tend them more closely. On the other hand, you won’t have to spend hours preparing the soil or pulling weeds. Before you get started on your container garden, keep a few things in mind.
1. Vegetable plants in containers may need watering as much as twice a day. Because they’re limited to the volume of soil provided in the pot, thirsty veggies like peppers and tomatoes will require frequent watering.
2. Container plants require more frequent fertilizing. Again, because they’re limited to the soil in the pot, they can’t send out feeder roots to find nutrients. Many gardeners choose to feed weekly with a diluted formula.
3. Even with containers, you can plant in layers. With a large, 5-gallon pot, you can add a tall plant like a small palm or flowering bush, and surround it with colorful annuals like petunias and pansies.
4. Don’t skimp on the potting soil. Add your planting mix up to 1-inch below the rim so there will be enough to hold adequate water and nuitrients.
You Can Grow Wherever With Container Gardening
Whether you have a large garden space or just a window box, container gardening can expand your options for growing flowering and edible plants. Even with a large backyard, adding container plants brings flowers and vegetables closer to protective walls, not to mention hose bibbs. For urban gardeners, containers let you cultivate vegetables and flowers inside and out, according to the seasons. They’re great for taking advantage of vertical spaces, as well, by adding shelves to narrow spaces to hold small pots for anything you chose to grow.
Do you have any container gardening tips to share? Please let us know your favorites ones in the comments below so our readers can explore a wealth of ideas so they can grow their favorites anywhere.
Last update on 2021-04-15 at 13:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API