No Yard, No Problem! – Tips for Starting a Container Garden

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Although home gardening is a trend that has certainly taken off lately, not everyone has acres of land that they can devote to the cultivation of fresh veggies and herbs. Prospective gardeners might be renting a yard from someone who could evict them at any given moment. Or, perhaps they happen to be living in a small apartment with nothing to work with but a fire escape. How could these sorts of people possibly cultivate fresh goodies? The solution is simple. They should add a container garden to their lives.

Container Garden Perks

Growing a few herbs remains an easy way to add affordable flavor to one’s diet. After all, most of them are low maintenance plants that don’t take up too much space.

Even so, the best thing about having a container garden is that they are extremely portable. They provide an ideal growing environment for young professionals who often find themselves moving on to new career opportunities and new locations.

Of course, homeowners who are suffering from problematic situations in their yard (root nematodes, poor drainage, or clay soils) can easily use containers to rise above their gardening troubles. Weeds are also less of a problem for container growers. After all, new potting soil isn’t as likely to contain troublesome stowaways as the dirt in one’s yard.

Container Garden Caveats

The main downside to container gardening is that once plants reach a certain point it’s hard to find containers that are big enough for them. Additionally, the larger or nicer a planter is, the more it is going to cost. When one considers that planting a garden in the yard is a totally free option, justifying the extra expense can sometimes be difficult.

The watering requirements can be another downside to container gardening. Most in-ground plants can easily go several days without being hosed down. However, the only container plants that will survive such treatment are cacti and succulents. Container garden specimens generally have to be watered every single day and some have to be watered twice daily to keep them from shriveling up. Prospective gardeners that are okay with all these things and still want to start their own garden should read on.

The Basics

Flower and planter.
Flower and planter.

Plants, containers, and potting soil will be needed for this type of gardening endeavor. The last of these items is the easiest one to safely select. Just be sure to check the label before exiting the store. After all, gardening soil is designed for in-ground plants and it tends to form disastrous clumps if it’s put into containers.

Of course, selecting plants can be a daunting task if your tastes don’t match up with your climate. That’s where the Almighty Google comes in handy by helping prospective gardeners find out what works best in their areas. You can also consult with the garden center personnel at your favorite store, local county extension agents, and long-time residents of your area to come up with similarly feasible ideas.

The Perfect Pot – Selecting Containers

Planters are a little bit easier to figure out. Just about anything that can hold potting soil and have drainage holes poked in it can be used as a planter. Gardeners are limited only by their imaginations and the dimensions of the plants that they plan on growing. All the same, plants need to match the type of container they’re going to be hanging out in. Moisture loving specimens do best in plastics or ceramics, which hold in liquid, and those that prefer drier growing conditions do better in wood or terracotta, which are permeable to some extent and allow any excess moisture to escape faster.

Drainage holes are a must!
Drainage holes are a must for container gardens!

However, some planters that are available at the stores won’t have them. Gardeners can work around this by creating their own drainage holes. If that’s not feasible, double-potting is an option. This means first putting the specimen in a planter with drainage holes then sticking the entire configuration inside the decorative outer shell. You have to keep a close eye on it so any excess water can be drained off before it rots the plant’s roots. I personally think it’s not worth the hassle but of course your own opinion may differ.

Putting It Together

What the finished product looks like.
What the finished products look like.

Assembling the containers is a fairly simple process. Once gardeners have made sure the pots in question have drainage holes, they should fill them with enough dirt that the plants will sit slightly above the rim of the containers. They should then carefully extract each transplant from its former container. If it has a well-established root system, gently squish the bottom a few times so that the roots don’t end up growing in circles.

Set the plant on top of the soil in the pot to make sure it will be above the container rim. If this isn’t the case, take the plant out and add more dirt until it is. Once the plant is situated at the right level, hold it in place and fill around it with dirt. Finally, water the whole thing until the liquid runs out of planter. If this procedure causes the soil level to fall significantly, be sure to add more. Apply top dressing if you like and that’s all there is to it.

Other Useful Items When Container Gardening

Odds & Ins.
Odds & Ends.

Keeping a container garden healthy once it is planted requires a few more items. After all, no garden escapes pests or disease problems, so purchasing some type of dual purpose spray (organic or not) to combat minor ailments is a good idea. Fertilizer of some sort is another must. I’ve found that granular types which dissolve over time are ideal for beginners. These products can be easily applied to ailing plants with less risk of overdoing the dosage and causing the specimen in question to drop dead.

Gloves are also a handy thing to have around spiky plants. (Of course, it helps if you’re not someone with undersized hands and about an inch of unwieldy extra fabric on each finger because they don’t quite come in your size). Buying materials such as gravel, sand, and sphagnum moss to sprinkle on the top of your containers is another good idea. These substances can be added to the top of containers to hold in moisture and help dress up your garden.

Saucers also come in handy for both moisture loving plants and indoor specimens that sit on top of very important items of furniture. Gardeners that are living in a place where it rains a lot might also find plant risers (feet) to be useful in keeping plants that like drier conditions off the damp ground, and to ensure proper drainage.

Good Luck & Happy Gardening!

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About Lauren

Lauren Purcell is a freelance writer from Savannah, Georgia. She is the proud owner of two spoiled little dogs. Her hobbies include gardening (in case you hadn't noticed), cooking, traveling when she has money, and waiting on her key lime tree to produce fruit.

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