No access to land for growing a vegetable garden? No problem. You can still grow a vegetable and herb garden, enjoying all the benefits of gardening without the added cost and maintenance of a large outdoor garden bed. Perfect for people living in apartments, condos or another urban setting, container gardening is effective and highly customizable. Just pick the right container, plant and soil for your outdoor space – whether it’s a large deck, small balcony or front porch.
Pick the Right Container
If space is limited, start your selection process with container choices. Select the largest size containers that your space can accommodate since bigger containers require less watering. For most plants, you’ll need a pot that can hold at minimum six to eight inches of potting soil, though deep root crops like carrots and tomatoes require an even deeper container. Be sure that containers have drainage holes for healthy root growth. If you suspect you’ll not be able to water plants every day, look for plastic, metal, fiberglass or glazed pots – all of these maintain moisture slightly better than wood or clay containers.
Pick the Right Plant
If your outdoor space isn’t limit, you could start your selection process with what vegetables you’d like to grow and then select containers that are ideal for that plant’s growth. This helpful table is a great guide to what plants thrive in what types of containers. If you only have small containers, herbs might grow best. If you have bigger containers, you might be able to plant multiple plants in one container. Just make sure you group the plants based on similar sunlight and water needs. Also look for dwarf varieties of plants, which may make it less likely that your plant’s growth outpaces the container size. While many herbs can grow inside, most plants will produce more when they are outside, which means you need to consider weather. This guide will let you know what to plant during summer, fall, spring and winter.
Pick the Right Soil
A potting mix or other type of soil media will work much better than standard garden soil, which may not hold enough moisture for your plants to survive. You may also need to fertilize potted plants more since their growing area is so compact.
How to Plant
Now that you’ve gathered all your materials, you’re ready to plant. Consider using a flattened coffee filter at the bottom of the container so that the soil you add won’t fall from the container’s drainage holes. You can also put some packing peanuts in the bottom of the pot if you are growing a shallow rooted plant in a deep container. This helps reduce the amount of potting soil you have to use.
Add soil to about an inch below the top of the container. Then spread out the plant’s roots and dig the plant into the soil so that the root ball is either even or slightly above the soil height. You can lightly compress the soil around the plant and then water the plant until water drains through the drainage holes at the bottom of the container.
A great resource for further gardening advice and tips is the NC Cooperative Extension, which has an entire online section dedicated to gardening resources.