When I’ve thought about container gardening, I haven’t thought of it as “serious gardening.” I haven’t thought of using container gardening to grow enough food to make a dent in your grocery bill. Container gardening? That’s like a petunia in a pot, right?
I’m learning that my thinking has been wrong, because that’s exactly what a growing number of people are doing. Phil’s sister was the first to introduce us to serious container gardening. She has containers all over her porch, along the back of her house and throughout her yard in Florida. She doesn’t do it because she has to; she does it because it’s efficient, effective, and so much easier than traditional gardening. And that’s what this series of blogs is about – making gardening easy.
In fact, container gardening might be the easiest of all approaches to growing food. But there are other reasons to consider container gardening.
Why Container Gardening?
- Looking for a way to start small? You can’t get any smaller than this.
- It’s great for city dwellers because you can garden on your patio, balcony or porch.
- It requires less weeding (the most time consuming part of gardening).
- If you move, you can take your garden with you! You will not have lost all the effort associated with making a traditional garden plot or raised beds.
- As with raised beds, container gardening can make gardening accessible to people with handicaps.
- Get your kids involved with gardening by giving them each one or more containers to tend. It’s way better than a pet rock.
- It allows you to extend your growing season in a number of ways. The soil in your containers will warm up faster than the ground soil, so you can plant sooner. You can move the containers around as the growing season progresses, taking advantage of the sun and shade appropriately. Covering your containers may be easier than covering a traditional garden so you can grow later in the season.
- Because you can locate containers in areas shielded from harsh weather or even inside your house, you can grow plants that are outside your growing zone.
- Try out new vegetable varieties on a small scale by planting them in containers. See which ones do best in your climate and go all in next year.
- Container gardening can add decorative elements to your home and yard.
Container gardening probably isn’t new to you. If you have any house plants, they’re probably in containers of some sort. But growing food in containers may be new to you. Imagine, though, growing cherry tomatoes in plastic milk jugs. Just step outside and have a tasty, healthy snack or pick some tomatoes to add to your salad. Or how about growing potatoes in a stack of old tires? If you can let your imagination go a bit further, imagine that you are growing a significant portion of your vegetables in containers.
It’s All About Pots, Baskets, and Other Containers…
Your container can be anything that holds soil and will allow water to drain. Anything. Be creative – you can grow plants in anything from a beautiful glazed pot to a piece of an old gutter. If you’re creating your garden on the cheap, search your home and thrift stores for pots, baskets, and other containers. I’ve seen pictures of people growing plants in plastic shopping bags filled with soil. Your containers can sit on the ground, hang from a stand or beam or attach to a structure (like a window box). Large containers will cost more to fill, but you won’t have to water them as often. Drainage holes are a must. Without them, you’re plants will drown. Terracotta pots will dry out more, causing you to need to water more frequently.
You’ll want to match your plant to the container. For example, a tall or heavy plant requires a container that won’t tip over as the plant grows and a spreading plant will need room to spread. Don’t use a container that is too narrow. Similarly, you’ll want to adjust the number of plants in the container to the size of the container. Remember, the roots of your plants will need room to grow.
…And It’s All About Soil
Your ground soil is may (or may not) be fine for traditional gardening, but it doesn’t work well for container gardening. It just doesn’t provide all of the air, water, and nutrients that potted plants require in order to be healthy. A better idea is a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite, potting soil, and compost. This mixture will give your plants a loose soil that is ideal for the spreading of plant roots, and holds a good amount of moisture while still allowing for good drainage.
Everything has its downside, and container gardening is no exception. Here are a few things to watch out for.
Although your container garden will require much less weeding, your plants will require a bit more attention. Plants aren’t accustomed to growing in containers. They’re accustomed to spreading their roots to provide stability for the plant and to search for nutrients and water. Since they can’t do that in a container, you’ll have to take care, especially when the plant is young, to manage the plant and soil. Because there is less soil in the container, it will warm up faster than the ground soil – that’s the advantage. But the reverse is also true. Less soil also means that the soil will cool more rapidly when the temperature drops, so precautions have to be taken to keep your plants warm.
Because you will be watering your plants frequently in containers with drainage holes, the plant nutrients will get washed out of your soil and will need to be replenished. That means using fertilizer on a recurring basis.
Container gardening is as easy as it gets. With a very small space and some TLC you can soon be enjoying the fruits of your labor — without much labor at all.