If you’ve ever planted a standard, in-ground garden, you know it’s a fairly simple and straight-forward process. You don’t need any previous experience or expensive equipment to get started. With that said, if your space is limited, and a conventional garden isn’t possible, you could always grow a container garden. If you are just getting started with container gardening, you’ll need a few very basic, easily attainable things.
So aside from the desire to grow your own food (or some really pretty flowers), what do you need to start container gardening?
- At least a rough plan of which plants to grow and where
- Work space and Tools
- Ballast to put in the base of the pot
Plan It Out
When first starting a container garden, a good place to begin is finding all the above mentioned things. While you’re still in your planning stage, begin gathering your items.
The next thing to look at is the space you have available to you, and more importantly how much of that space is touched by the sun. If you have a north-facing garden that is in the constant shadow of a building, or a courtyard patio that never sees sunshine, you might have more success with a window box, sunny room, or area located on the south side of the building where there is sunlight. Bear in mind, the suns rays will bounce and spill into the shaded areas and still provide the necessary conditions for growing.
If you’re not thrilled about the idea of bending down, you can arrange your pots on stands. You may even be able to use recycled materials to build your stands! You could even build a freestanding, upright plant climbing frame wall and position it parallel to the main wall, but several feet away. With this method, you could be introducing a whole new growing area that you wouldn’t have otherwise had – essentially doubling your wall growing space.
Be sure to look high, too! Are there walls you can place hanging grow bags and baskets on? Vertical gardening comes into play here. Do you have any ‘airspace’ that can be utilized? You may be able to suspend a rope between two anchor points, intersecting the airspace with the rope. Then, you can suspend hanging baskets along the rope, fully utilizing the otherwise redundant space.
Workspace and Tools
Let’s face it – while gardening may be fun, it is also messy business! Find yourself a good spot in which to work with your plants and soil so when that mess is made, it is easily cleaned up. If you work in the grass or in another bed, you can simply leave the soil where it falls. If you work on a harder surface, you might even want to scoop the excess soil up and add it back to the pot.. or put it back in the bag for your next planting. Do you have somewhere to store bags of compost, fertilizers, tools and spare pots – assuming you will probably find yourself accumulating such things over time?
Although most people are not necessarily that meticulous when it comes to planning ahead, there is no denying it will make life easier if you plan ahead for these things. There are some things you will not be able to proceed without, so it makes sense to acquire them before you begin.
When starting a garden with containers, it is not essential to go out and buy lots of stuff (tools, containers, plants, fancy gizmos etc), although a mini set of gardeners tools like a trowel, spade and fork set, and a watering can will always serve you well. You can just put those on your wish list; in the meanwhile just use your fingers and a jug! Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family and neighbors for any old pots and containers they might have, and also to save seeds for you. You’ll be surprised just what you might end up accumulating with this method when starting a garden!
One of the best things about your containers when starting a garden like this, is that you don’t have to use containers specifically designed for planting. Your containers can be virtually anything. If it can hold soil and you can punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage, then you’re in business!
Obviously the size of your containers will depend on what you intend to grow in them. The larger the plant, the larger the pot you will need. If you are growing multiple smaller plants, you can plant them together in a large container, as well. Just remember that if you have to move the containers around at all, the larger the container, the harder it will be to move.
Ballast is the stuff you put in the bottom of your pot. It typically refers to gravel, pebbles or other small rocks to help weight the bottom of the pot to keep it from tipping over. If you think you may be moving your pots around a lot, you might want to skip this step.
This is the one area in which you do not want to skimp. That cheap back of dirt at the home goods store? It’s cheap for a reason. It has little to no nutritional value for plants, and you’ll end up having to add lots of additives (which may end up being bad for the plant AND you). If you have access to a local compost heap (or even a friend who has a compost pile), good, rich compost will be great for your plants!
Seeds can be purchased online, from catalogs, or from garden centers. If you are planning on keeping some seeds from your crop to grow the following year, then you might want to consider buying heirloom seeds. Hybrids don’t always produce well in subsequent years if they produce at all! Those that do are very likely to be nowhere near as good, or as high-yielding as the original plant.
The most important thing for you to keep in mind when container gardening is the watering aspect. In-ground gardens don’t have to be watered as frequently as container gardens due to the sheer volume of soil that surrounds the roots. Keep a good check on the soil in your containers. You may have to water every day or two. Don’t let them dry completely out!
Do you plan on getting started with container gardening?
Let me know in the comments below what you plan to grow in containers. You might even give me some ideas!