If you’re short on garden space, container gardening is a great option. You can grow flowers, herbs and vegetables in containers of all sizes.
Planters, pots and urns are common containers, but even a wooden pallet leaned up against a fence or a window sill can become a growing space. Make sure your containers have drainage holes.
Choose the Right Plants
Choosing the right vegetables, herbs and flowers is important for container gardening. Look for varieties that are well-suited to containers and the growing conditions of your area.
Vegetables that grow best in small spaces include beans, tomatoes and eggplant. Choose bush or pole varieties of beans and provide trellis or cage support as they grow. Carrots and radishes also work well in containers, but select short-growing varieties like “Nantes” carrots and “Cherry Belle” radishes.
Consider using a potting mix that’s labeled for containers and that contains added organic matter to improve soil structure and nutrient content. Regular fertilization is essential to healthy plants and a beautiful garden. Mix slow-release or controlled-release fertilizer into the potting mix at planting time or add a soluble fertilizer to each watering.
Many herb varieties do very well in containers, including basil, chives, parsley and rosemary. To help prevent invasive mint from spreading, opt for compact or trailing varieties of mint such as spearmint and chocolate mint.
Choose the Right Containers
Using the right container size and material is key for success in growing plants in small spaces. Plants that require lots of light or are more delicate need more porous containers while larger, deep-rooted vegetables and fruit trees do well in sturdy, clay pots.
It is also important to select a container that provides adequate drainage for the type of crop you are planting. Standing water can lead to disease and fungus and is a breeding ground for pests. Adding drainage holes to containers or a layer of coarse gravel at the bottom of a container helps promote proper moisture retention.
For vegetables, a good quality potting mix is critical to successful container gardening. A blend of equal parts clay, silt and sand makes a great container soil. For seeds, use a 3:1 ratio of peat to vermiculite for easy seeding. A complete, slow-release fertilizer is important to use regularly for the best results. Choose a product that contains nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). Alternatively, you can add fish emulsion or blood meal to increase nitrogen levels.
Container gardening offers the flexibility to bring color and life to any stoop, balcony or window. Combination planters featuring perennials and annuals or shrubs and herbs create a stunning display, while plantings of hostas, daylilies, sedums and ferns can enhance a shady corner or terrace.
Vegetables grow best in larger containers, while herbs and flowering plants can do well in smaller pots. The bigger the pot, the more room the roots will have to spread out, which can lead to healthier, more productive plants.
It is important to add fertilizer regularly to your container garden. Last season’s plants used up nutrients in their growing media, and winter rains and snow wash away many of those nutrients – leaving new plantings struggling to access the necessary nutrition. Organic or natural liquid fertilizers are best for container gardens, as they reduce the risk of chemical salt build-up and offer a balanced diet with all three macronutrients. When using a liquid fertilizer, it is recommended to apply it in the morning or early evening to avoid potential damage to leaves from sun exposure.
Water Your Plants
Watering your plants properly is one of the most important things you can do to ensure their success. Watering too much or too often can lead to disease and root rot. Watering too little can lead to wilting and weak growth. Watering the surface of the soil rather than deeply can cause problems with sunburn on leaves (which is especially common for tomato and pepper plants) or fungus and other diseases.
Using your finger to test soil moisture is a good way to know when to water. Moisture levels can change quickly on a hot summer day; what looks moist at the surface may be dry an inch down.
You will also need to water your containers more frequently during hot weather. Use a slow trickle of water, as opposed to a flood, and make sure it gets down to the bottom of the container. This allows the roots to absorb the water and will prevent the surface from drying out too quickly.