Container gardens are a great way to increase green space without a backyard. Here's how to pick, plant and manage a beautiful indoor or porch garden. Container gardens are a fantastic option for those who want their own garden but lack arable space. Apartment balconies, courtyards, rooftops and decks can all become private garden space with container gardens. Follow these steps and you can have a thriving container garden in a few short weeks.
Check Your Sunlight Hours
How much sunlight does your rooftop, balcony or courtyard receive? Is the entire area bathed in sunlight at the same time, or does the sun light up parts of it at different times of the day? The number of available sunlight hours will dictate which plants can grow in your space.
Choose Your Containers
Almost anything can be used as a container, provided it has enough room for the root system and can be adapted to provide drainage. Old bathtubs, buckets, casserole dishes, tires and wine barrels all look great in a container garden. Colorful, bright children's gumboots can make an especially fun and zesty container garden. Choose lightweight containers if you have to move them around a lot to chase the sun.
Splurge on Soil
Start your garden with luscious, black soil, mix in some nutrient-rich compost and add a measure of slow-release fertilizer. You are halfway to harvesting. Avoid the temptation to pack your containers with fillers like packing peanuts. Invest in good, rich soil and you will be rewarded with lush, thriving plants that have strong, healthy root systems. Worm farms are a great way to make your own compost and fertilizer without the need for lots of space.
Choose Your Plants
Plants with small fruits, like cherry tomatoes, tend to do well in containers, as do beans, cucumbers, onions, squash and most herbs. Before combining plants in one container, make sure they all have the same light and water requirements. Be sure to read plant tags before purchasing; plants that need to be planted sparsely need space to thrive, so they are not great options for container gardening.
No Drainage? Make Your Own
Make sure your containers have adequate drainage. Root rot from prolonged wet feet will kill a plant as surely as dehydration. Drill holes in the bottom of any container that does not already come with adequate drainage.
Don't Stick to a Watering Timeline
It is better to water on inspection than on schedule. To avoid over watering or under watering your plants, test water levels by sticking your finger in the soil; if it does not stick to your finger, the plant needs water.
Slow-release fertilizer is your best set-and-forget option. Make sure some is mixed into your soil before planting. Sprinkle some on the soil periodically as per the manufacturer's directions. If you are going down the worm farm track, "worm juice" makes a great fertilizer. Container gardens are well worth the time and effort. With just a little planning and a small investment, you can have a gorgeous garden thriving on your patio where there was only concrete.