Container Gardening Is for Everyone
Now is the time for planting and sowing seeds in the garden! It’s also the perfect way to keep busy during this unexpected pandemic and reap a delicious harvest. Some of you might think “Yeah, starting a garden would be great, but I don’t have the space.” Even if you lack space for a garden or even a raised bed garden, as long as you have a little sun, some water, and an area you can sit a few pots, you’ve got all the ingredients for a container garden that will have you chowing down on juicy tomatoes or crunchy broccoli in no time! Read on to find out how to get started with planning your own little porch, patio, stoop, or balcony garden!
These days, most of us are far removed from living on a farm or growing our own food, and it seems like a luxury for the well-off or hobbyist who have tons of time and land on their hands to produce a beautiful garden. However, that just isn’t true. You don’t need to have a lot of money or land to get started with your very own garden, all you need is a container and you can grow some healthy vegetables and fruit for yourself or family.
First things first, you will need to scope out a sunny, small area to place your container, like a balcony, porch, walkway, or patio. Anywhere that gets a good amount of sunlight throughout the day.. . A general rule of thumb is 6-7 hours of direct sunlight for producing veggies and fruit. There are a few exceptions like lettuce, spinach, kale or collard greens. Most greens can tolerate partial shade and you can find this information on the back of seed packets or on the growing requirements tag in the pots of transplants.
Once you’ve scoped out the perfect location, you will need to choose your containers. The major things to look for in container selection is the size, the material that it’s made of, and drainage for excess water to flow out of the pot. It is important that you choose the right size container for your plants’ space requirements to get optimal growth. You will want to choose a size that will fit the plant at its mature plant size. Table 18-1 from the North Carolina Extension Gardener Handbook lists the proper plant to container sizing.
Other things to look for when selecting a container is the style and material. I love the look of clay pots but because they are made of porous material, moisture is lost more rapidly than a plastic or metal container. That means you will need to be more vigilant watering your plants, especially during our hot NC summer days. Your plants might need a good watering two or more times a day to maintain moisture and avoid heat stress. Most importantly, make sure whichever container you choose has drainage holes, so your plant roots do not sit in too much water and rot. If the container does not have any visible drainage holes you will need to make your own.
Next you will need to decide on your growing medium. Potting soil is best for containers because it is a mixture of materials formulated to decrease soil compaction and allows roots to grow unobstructed. The potting soils in stores works fine, but you can make your own mix by combining peat moss, garden soil, perlite and or vermiculite together for a more budget friendly mix. You could also add a bit of slow release fertilizer to the mix depending on the plant’s nutrient requirements.
Last but not least, you will need to select the plants you’d like to grow. There are many plants bred or hybridized specifically to be efficient and prolific growers in a container. Those plants will usually say compact, dwarf, bush or container friendly somewhere on the packaging or in the name. Decide which veggies you’d like to eat in the next few months and look up container friendly breeds from the website linked here.
After all that planning comes the fun part, planting and sowing seeds! Use the North Carolina Master Gardener planting calendar to find out if you should be transplanting or sowing from seed. If sowing from seed, fill your containers with your growing medium leaving enough space between the rim of the container and the soil mix so water does not overflow. Water your container to moisten the mix and help it to settle. Sow your seeds at the depth and spacing suggested on the seed package. If you are planting transplants follow the steps below.
- Fill your container with growing medium about an inch or two below the containers’ rim. You may need to add or remove soil underneath to get it just right. The plant can stay in its package while you do this. Once you’ve got it at the perfect height you can remove the plant from it’s package taking care not to damage the roots too much.
- Center the plant in the pot and fill in the potting mix in around the roots of the plant.
- Water the plant to help it settle in and you’re finish!
You’ve just created your own container garden and you’ll be picking your first harvest in a few months! Make sure you continue to water your plants and give them the nutrients they need if you didn’t add fertilizer to the potting mix. We’d love to see your container garden creations! Be sure to send pictures and updates to our Facebook page as they grow!