How to grow a container garden

Not everybody is blessed with a yard to garden in. Perhaps your landlord frowns on you digging up the landscaping, or you live in an apartment high above that nice, loamy soil. You may have a yard, but it’s too sandy or rocky to grow in.

In situations like this, container gardening can be a useful strategy. Containers can be anything from 5 gallon buckets, to shoes, to more traditional earthenware pots. If it’s big enough to fit the root system of the plant you want to grow, you can garden in it.

Container gardens have a lot of benefits. You can grow almost any vegetable you can think of in them, you can control what sort of soil you are growing in from bottom to top, and you can make use of space you otherwise wouldn’t.

If you have a balcony instead of a backyard, a few containers can give you a surprisingly large amount of vegetables, herbs, and even fruits.

Getting Started with container gardening

It’s helpful to know the size of the plant you’ll be growing before you put it in the pot. Tomatoes tend to need bigger pots than thyme for example. Your thyme could be happy in a small pot on your window sill, while container varieties of tomato will need that 5 gallon bucket.

General rules for finding containers is to choose ones that have never held toxic chemicals, (you’re eating those veggies after all) it doesn’t biodegrade easily, (a cardboard box won’t work) and it has drainage holes. If there is no way for excess water to drain out, the roots of your plant can rot.

To keep the dirt from draining out the bottom along with excess water, a piece of cheese cloth or metal mesh over the drain hole can help keep the dirt in but let the excess water out.

You’ll also need seeds, and for many vegetables fertilizer too. This could be simply composted vegetable scraps, or organic fertilizer designed for heavy consuming plants such as tomatoes and peppers.

Many seed companies have container varieties of your favorite vegetables, which are selectively bred to thrive in the confines of a container. These are great to select from.

You’ll need to follow the care instructions of the individual plant from here. Lettuce for example, is not a heavy feeder. Just potting soil, a sprinkle of seeds, and regular water should be enough to get you a decent lettuce supply.

Tomatoes however, will likely need a top dressing of compost, and regular feeding throughout it’s growing cycle. You’ll also only plant 1 or 2 seeds and thin if they both sprout, while loose leaf lettuce types can crowd quite a few in the same sized container.

Read up on the individual plants you’re interested in growing, and follow their instructions from here.

Check water levels frequently

No matter what plant you’re growing, check water levels frequently. Containers can lose moisture much more rapidly than an in-ground garden. Place your finger in the soil about half an inch down. If you can’t feel moisture that far down, it’s time to water.

Some containers are “smart” containers, and are designed so that it self waters. All you have to do is fill the container up, and the plant can take it from there. If you’re worried about watering or don’t want your veggies to be high maintenance, this is an option for you.

Containers are a great, easy way to get started in gardening. If you want a garden but an in-ground one is not an option, container gardening may be right for you.

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