Container Gardening: Self-Sufficiency in the City
Just because you live in an apartment or other area without full access to a garden doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy fresh food that you grow yourself. In fact, with container gardening, you can grow a wide variety of plants, even if only on your balcony.
The types of plants and size of your container garden will depend entirely on how much space you have available. If you are looking at window sills only, then herbs and small vegetables like cherry tomatoes and radishes are best. A balcony can support larger containers which may contain everything from tomatoes and lettuce to strawberries and even small citrus trees! If you have a rooftop or yard at your disposal, then the sky is the limit.
Which Containers to Use
While actual plant pots are your best bet, since they are already designed for planting, you can use just about anything, as long as it is large enough to fit the plant you want to grow. Gallon ice cream buckets, chopped off milk jugs and laundry pails all work well for smaller plants. A laundry tub or even a baby tub can work for larger plants and if you have plenty of space, then a kiddie pool works very well.
Your container should be at least 6” deep, sometimes more. Check the seeds you want to plant to find out how much space they need. For example, lettuce doesn’t require deep soil, but carrots will do far better in at least a foot of dirt.
It’s a good idea to drill holes at the bottom of your containers to allow for drainage. This prevents the plant from getting soggy and rotting out the roots. Put a plastic plate or an ice cream lid underneath to catch excess water.
Potting soil works just fine for most container gardens. If you are looking at planting a big pot, mix in plenty of vermiculite to keep the soil fairly light, particularly if you are going to plant on a balcony or rooftop.
At the very bottom of the pot, you’ll want to add a little gravel to keep the drainage holes clear. Then fill the pot up with dirt. You’re ready to plant!
Planting Your Container Garden
There are so many plants to choose from that it can be difficult to make a decision. In general, if you have no experience with gardening at all, you’ll want to start simple. Look for herb seedlings at your local nursery, since these tend to do better than growing from seeds.
Radishes, carrots, lettuce and peas are all easy plants to start out with. Tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and eggplants are just a few of the other plants you can grow in containers. They don’t need to be kept separate, either, so you can plant radishes and tomatoes together, for example. Try to mix below ground with above ground plants for best results.
Read up on the seeds you choose. Most seed packets will offer instructions for planting. Make sure you don’t crowd your seeds or they won’t grow well. Once you’ve planted the seeds, water them thoroughly.
Caring for Your Garden
Most plants require very little care. As long as you water them regularly, they will do fine. You can also add a little liquid fertilizer on a monthly basis to help the plants grow. Ensure that the pots are where plenty of daylight hits them and you should see some happy green sprouts very soon.
Container gardens are an excellent way to keep fresh vegetables and herbs on hand. You can even plant some fruits. There’s nothing like being able to pick your own fresh produce whenever you need it and with container gardening, this is possible no matter where you live.