Planning a Container Garden
A container garden can be placed just about anywhere and can grow just about anything you have an interest in growing. Better yet, it takes only a small amount of planning to get started.
Setting up a container garden is a great way for anyone to enjoy homegrown produce no matter where they live. Some rental properties have strict rules that prohibit renters from digging up part of the backyard, or some people just don’t have access to potential gardening space.
Some areas have a shortened growing season due to the local weather. No matter the reason for picking container gardening, it can be a wonderful experience. Containers can be placed anywhere and grow just about anything you have an interest in growing. An additional bonus is that any level of skilled gardener can put together a container garden.
One of the first things to consider when planning your container garden is what you would like to grow. This first decision will help you plan everything else out. Possibilities include the usual suspects like tomatoes, but you can be as creative as you want. Grow a variety of lettuces, spinach and more to create your own salad mix.
Grow cherry tomatoes and peppers to make your tacos fresh during the summer months. If you find you do not have a great deal of space for your containers, think about growing smaller versions, such as dwarf or bush varieties that will work in a smaller space as they do not take up as much space in the container.
If you are planning on placing your containers on the porch or windowsill, keep in mind the weight each container will add to the space. Although they are small, containers can be heavy once they are filled with soil and plants.
If you decide to grow more than one variety in your container, it can be helpful to know which plants grow well with each other and which ones should be planted separately. Companion plants are ones that can be beneficial to each other.
For instance, when growing tomatoes, it can be helpful to plant celery, broccoli, peppers or asparagus, as they grow well with and can help the performance of tomato plants, but you would want to avoid planting peas, corn, alfalfa or rosemary with them. Understanding companion plants will help you to better plan out your containers.
Once you have an idea of what you would like to grow, it comes time to determine how many containers you will need. This is a great time to think creatively as you may already have containers to use around your home.
Remember, if you do decide to repurpose ceramic bowls, old pans or other household items, it can be helpful to drill drainage holes in the bottom to keep your roots from rotting. There are also plenty of varieties of containers on the market, including fabric ones that resemble reusable shopping bags.
The potting mix you use to fill the containers is an important matter to consider. Using garden soil is probably not your best bet for containers, especially if weight is something you need to consider.
There are plenty of soils on the market that offer the same nutrients and minerals as fortified garden soils but are lighter in composition. Look for soils marked for containers. Follow the directions on your seed packets for planting.
Spacing is not as big an issue for containers because you are working with fortified soils, unlike garden soil that might not be as rich in nutrients. If you are transplanting semi-grown plants into your containers, be careful not to damage the root system too much when removing them from their temporary container.
The hole to transplant the plant into should be twice the size of the root-ball. While holding the stem, fill soil in around it. You will want to push the soil down firmly and water it afterwards. The same transplanting steps can be carried out if you grow seedlings and decide to move them to a larger container or into the garden.
Caring for your container garden is rather simple. The one thing to remember is that containers will dry out quicker than a regular garden. There are tools on the market that can help you determine when your container may require water.
Also, some of your taller plants may require staking to keep them growing straight. Bamboo stakes or long sticks can be used for this purpose. Twist-ties, hemp or other material can be used to keep the plant next to the stake without harming the plant. Depending on your growing season, types of plants being grown and soil used, you may also need to fertilize your container garden.
Keep in mind that after the initial cost of containers, soil and seeds, you will be reaping the rewards in fresh produce. Growing your own fruits and veggies can be cost effective when compared to buying the same amount of produce at your local grocery store or farmers’ market. There is also the added reward of knowing the food you are preparing is from your own garden.
Written by Shannon McKee | Freelance Writer, Gardener
Shannon McKee lives in Ohio and has been a freelance writer for several years now, including on her blog, whyiwah.blogspot.com. Nicknamed by loved ones a garden hoarder over the past few years, she grows a wide variety of plants in her urban garden.