Gardening can be a great and rewarding way to add produce to your diet. There are many wonderful benefits that come from growing your own food. However, it can feel like an impossible task if you live in an apartment or even if you don’t have a large plot of land to plant a garden in.
Luckily, you’ll find that a lot of plants can do quite well in containers. And with a little bit of research, you can start growing your own herbs, fruits, and vegetables in no time. Be sure to check with your apartment management about what you can have on your balcony or patio before you begin.
1) Potting Soil
There are many things that go into growing produce in a container. And one of them is, of course, the soil. Do not use soil from your garden as it will get waterlogged and cause all sorts of problems. When you’re buying your potting soil, you’re going to want to choose a high-quality option. With this, don’t fill up your container with items like packing peanuts. While it will make it lighter, it can cause the soil to dry out faster.
There are many differences between container gardening and when you have your plants in the actual ground. One of the biggest differences is how fast the soil can dry out. And many plants, like tomatoes, need a good amount of water. In the middle of the summer, you’re going to need to be watering once if not twice a day. To know if your plants need watering, stick your finger into the soil about an inch down. If the soil is dry, add water. If not, wait and check later.
3) Optimal Drainage
Along with watering, you’ll need to have optimal drainage. If your plants aren’t getting adequate drainage, the roots will start to rot. And with that comes diseases and insects. You can add drainage to the bottom of your pots by drilling or punching holes. Though it’s often much easier to just buy pots that already have the drainage added into them. Also, be sure to keep the pot from sitting on a hard surface that won’t allow the water to escape. You can elevate the pot with pot feet or even put it in a pot cart.
4) Container Size
When it comes to picking the perfect container, size matters. Smaller containers just don’t have the space needed to let your plants grow. You want something that’s big enough to let the roots expand. While also having enough soil in the pot to keep the plant from drying out. Larger containers can hold moisture better. And overall, a bigger container means an easier garden to maintain. As a general rule, stay away from anything that is smaller than 12 inches across.
5) Container Type
While you can use just about any type of pot as long as it’s big and has drainage holes, there are some materials that work better than others. Wood is an all-around good option to choose for a container as it protects roots from rapid temperature changes while also not being too expensive. Other options are ceramic containers, like terra cotta, plastic, and fiberglass, and even cast concrete. Each has its own pros and cons so be sure to look up which option is the right one for you and where you’ll be gardening.
6) Lighting and Temperature
You might be surprised to know just how much full sun a plant needs to properly grow. When you’re deciding where to put your garden, make sure you put your plants where they will get the maximum amount of sunlight every day. If you’re worried about the amount of sun your plant will get in a specific area, you can use a sun calculator to determine how much light your plant will get.
It’s also important to keep your plants above a certain temperature. If you are worried about the nighttime temperatures dropping too low, bring your plants inside.
One of the downsides of container gardening is that the lack of nutrients in the potting soil. Unless you add some to your soil, your plants will not get the needed nutrients. Before you begin planting, mix some fertilizer into the soil. And then every couple of weeks, add a plant nutrient to help your plants thrive throughout the growing season. Another great way to get nutrients to your plants is by making or buying compost, which is a great natural way to fertilize your plants.
8) Seeds or Seedlings
Both options have their own benefits and disadvantages to choosing them. And rather than asking which option is better, it would be better worded to ask which suits your individual needs. If you’re planning to start with seeds, you will have a wider variety of plants to choose from. It will also be cheaper than buying seedlings. But, they also need a lot of sun and a lot more attention and can potentially have a low germination rate. As for the seedlings, you’ll have a plant already started, saving you up to six weeks of growing time and you’ll only be growing what you need. But it can be difficult to find unusual varieties and the plant may suffer transplant shock if not properly transferred.
9) Make a list before you go
Now, that you’re ready to get to planting, make a list of what you’re going to grow this season. That way you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for when you get to the nursery. And it’ll help keep you on track from spending on plants you aren’t able to grow in your containers. Consider creating a list with the number of pots and sizes you can have in your space as well as where you’re going to put them. Then you can decide which plants can fit in those pots.
10) Container Vegetables
Vegetables that do grow well in containers:
- Summer or zucchini squash
- Leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, and collards
Vegetables that don’t grow well in containers:
- Large melons
- Large pumpkins or squash
Though this is only a basic starter guide to growing your own produce, this is a great start to creating your own garden. Let us know in the comments what works for you when it comes to container gardening. What’s your favorite thing to grow?
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