Growing your own food can seem out of reach if you live in an urban setting such as a row or apartment. However, it takes less green space than you think to grow your own vegetables and herbs at home.
Container gardening is a great way to sustainably grow your own produce without a lot of space. It may seem expensive and daunting at first, but you don’t need a ton of supplies or gardening skills to get started. Here, we break down the key things to consider when growing your own fruits, veggies, and herbs in a container garden.
There are four important factors to consider when choosing a container for your vegetable garden: the type of planter, drainage, size, and color.
Type: Planters can be made from household items like milk jugs, buckets, or milk crates lined with garbage bags. If it’s sturdy and you can puncture holes for drainage, it can probably work as a planter.
If you don’t have these supplies lying around, planters are readily available at any garden center or home improvement store for as little as a couple of dollars per piece. If you don’t have a lot of real estate to put your planters on the ground, think vertically! Window boxes and hanging planters are great options, too.
Drainage: Drainage is important because you don’t want your soil to stay too moist as it will create an opportunity for fungus and disease and eventually kill your plants! Most commonly, storebought pots have one hole at the bottom. But if you’re doing it yourself, you can put a ring of small holes around the bottom or even a few holes a couple of inches from the bottom. This will not only help with drainage but encourage airflow.
Size & Color: Size and color are important factors when choosing your planters. For example, tomatoes need more space to grow, so a 5-gallon bucket is ideal. The surface area will also make an impact on your plants since more surface area speeds up how fast the water evaporates.
Color will also make an impact on water retention. For example, a black bucket will absorb more heat and will dry out faster than lighter colors.
Soil is an important factor in any type of gardening. With container gardening, you’ll want to look specifically for potting soil. Avoid garden soil, which is too heavy and not suitable for container gardening.
For most outdoor plants, choosing a good quality, all-purpose soil mix for containers is usually the best option. Think light and fluffy!
You should choose plants based on the amount of sunlight you get. Most crops enjoy lots of sun, but some can tolerate more shade. If you’re starting with seeds from your local garden supply store, the package will usually include instructions about how much sun and water the crop needs to grow (or just google it)!
A good shortcut is “garbage gardening” -- basil, romaine lettuce, onions and scallions, ginger, and potatoes are all easy to start from produce scraps (aka propagation for dummies)!
Companion planting can help you maximize your space, so if you only have room for a few planters, or the planters you have are small, you can still yield a lot of crops. Good companion crops include:
Seed label instructions are your best friend when it comes to maintenance. Follow what you can to the letter and keep an eye on watering and sunlight instructions. If you’ve got good soil and you’re monitoring water retention, the rest should come easily.
You can bump your crop with organic fertilizer (aka compost) and mulch, which can be made from newspaper, cardboard, dried leaves, and wood chips.
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