Monday, February 11, 2019

How to Have a Thriving Container Garden


If you follow me on Instagram (or have been a reader of this blog for a bit), you will know very well that I love gardening and have for about 4 years now. At my last house, I had only a 14 x 14 foot concrete patio as my very own yard. For that space, I was required to garden solely in containers, or planters. I was in Zone 6b, so we had freezing winters and scorching summers. The concrete also heated up REALLY hot in the summer, a good 30 degrees or so warmer than the regular air temperature. As a result, when it was 95°F outside, my patio would radiate heat above 120°F. (I call it the parking lot effect.)

I learned a lot with my garden. If a plant was going to be there all year, it must be a heat tolerant, freeze-tolerant, or both, and I must water it regularly. I lost a few plants by choosing ones that were too delicate, but, overall, most of my plants thrived despite the harsh conditions and rapid temperature shifts.


WHY CONTAINER GARDENING IS AWESOME


1. With only containers, you rarely need to weed. In fact, I think I pulled a handful of weeds the entire 3 years I gardened on that patio. Usually it was a stray seed from one of my plants that had taken up root in another pot.
2. You can move your plants around easily to protect them from the elements. I rearranged my garden  pots regularly when I could see that plants weren't thriving where they'd originally been set. You can also bring them indoors if you get a random hard freeze when you're not supposed to have one. (Which I did many times!)
3. Most plants will thrive in a pot or planter, you just have to give them the right conditions, and a big enough pot. Many seed companies are also coming up with varieties of plants that do well in pots.
4. Containers provide a different type of climate zone - they warm up faster than the ground does, so, you can start gardening earlier, but you'll have to protect them if you're getting a freeze, because containers freeze quicker than the ground, too. 

The below tomato plant below grew to be a foot over my head, even in a pot!


TIPS AND TRICKS FOR SUCCESSFUL CONTAINER GARDENING


WATERING

The trick to keeping your container garden hydrated comes from learning how your plants handle water. My pots would dry out too fast if I didn't water them until the water came out of the bottom, so over time I learned to water them that way, and they'd stay hydrated during the heat better. Pots dry out quickly, so plants can wilt during the hottest times of the day. For my scorching patio, that meant that in July, I would sometimes have to water twice daily to prevent my plants from dying. 

Also, it seems like it would be a good idea to avoid pots with drainage holes, so the plant can keep more water in the pot, but that's the worst thing you can do. ALWAYS make sure your pot or planter drains, otherwise your plants will die and rot from the root up, from being too waterlogged.

FEEDING

Since pots or planters hold a limited amount of soil, the plants will quickly suck the soil dry of nutrients. To keep your plants happy, healthy, and productive, you will need to fertilize regularly throughout the growing season, and replenish your soil each year by mixing in compost and fresh soil.  

TYPE OF CONTAINER

It really doesn't matter what type of container you choose as long as it has drainage holes. Metal, plastic, wood, stone, they all have their purpose! You can even repurpose old items that will hold soil in them like suitcases, dresser drawers, boots, teacups, watering cans, buckets, etc. You can use 5 gallon buckets, or build your own planters, or buy big ones at Home Depot. Anything works. I've even seen people use repurposed bathtubs! Just make sure you do a little research on the root depth needed for what you're growing, and make sure your container is right for your plant. 

Pot Sizes:
Tomatoes, squashes, roses, small trees, large flowering vines, and other large plants need deep root structures and access to a decent amount of water to provide a healthy plant, so you'll want to go big on your pots/containers. Deep planter boxes, or 20" pots or half barrels should be sufficient. 

Lettuces, herbs, and smaller flowers can handle 10" deep or less on soil, so you can plant them in shallower, smaller or more creative containers. 

LOCATION

Container gardening is an easy way to build a garden when you don't have a bunch of open ground to plant in. You can build a garden on a windowsill, balcony, patio, porch, or rooftop easily! You don't have to have a house to garden, you can be an apartment dweller, or live in a small townhouse even. Just make sure to pay attention to your plants, and you'll have a beautiful garden for many seasons to come. 


NOTE: All of the plants pictured in this post are grown in pots or planters built on top of cement, including the climbing vines and the small tree. 

Container gardening is an easy and fun way to bring mother nature to whatever space you have. I recommend you give it a try. Also, please let me know if you have any other questions on gardening. I'm always happy to help!

++ Do you garden? Do you want to? Please comment below!
If you have a garden, please share your pictures or video with me. I LOVE seeing what people are doing. 





Join the conversation!

  1. This is such a great way to bring plants into a small space. When my husband and I move, I'm planning to do a lot of container gardening too! I think it looks great, plus it's more manageable!

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    1. Thanks so much! Yeah, it's pretty easy, easier than I thought. Someday maybe the plants will be large enough to cool down my patio, and make it look jungle-like, but until then I'll just keep trying new things until I find what works. Plus, homegrown tomatoes, strawberries, and peppers taste SO GOOD compared to the store-bought produce picked too early. The strawberries are so sweet they're like candy.

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  2. The timing if this post is so perfect! I have a small space that I want to start filling like this. Great resource. Pinned!

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    Replies
    1. You should check out my Home: Yard and Garden Pinterest board. You'll love it. It's got soooo much small space gardening stuff.

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