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February 18, 2019
There’s nothing like the smell of soil, the feeling of cool dirt between your fingers, or the crunch of a carrot freshly pulled from the garden. Growing your own food is one of life’s most satisfying activities. And in the hectic pace of today’s world, slowing down to enjoy the complex flavors of an heirloom tomato you’ve lovingly grown puts everything into perspective.
Not everyone has the privilege of land or massive amounts of time to tend a garden. For folks in urban areas, or just finding your way into gardening, container gardens are a great way to begin. They’re simple to manage, relatively low maintenance (no weeding!) and extremely versatile.
There are about a million options when it comes to container gardening, so it can be helpful to narrow down a few variables. Let’s start with the basics: space, sun and water. By understanding those requirements, you can group plants with similar needs closely together.
First, determine what space is available for your garden. How many containers will you be able to include? Will your garden be indoors or outside? Will everything be in one spot, or will you have multiple areas?
How much sun is available?
Veggies take more water than your average house plant, and take more water than even the same plant in a traditional garden. Potting soil tends to dry faster than garden soil, so watering frequently is important. Hotter climates will need more water than cooler ones.
In general, if you stick your finger in the soil and the top inch is dry to the touch, it’s time to water. Figuring out a consistent schedule is important, as frequent changes in moisture can cause things like tomato blossom-end rot.
Where you live will determine which plants will thrive in your garden. For folks in the US, it can be helpful to see which zone you’re in on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
2+ gallon, space plants 6” apart
2+ gallon, space plants 2-4” apart
Full sun to partial shade
5+ gallon, minimum 5” deep, space plants 2” apart
1 seed potato per 5 gallon pot
5+ gallon, space plants 4” apart
5+ gallon, needs trellis, space plants 2-4” apart
1 plant per 5 gallon pot
1 plant per 5 gallon pot, or DIY hanging planter
Determine whether you want a summer of home-grown salads or a stockpile of root veggies. What type of harvest will you enjoy most? Decide how many pots you’ll need and what will be planted in each.
Figure out whether you’d like to start from seeds or nursery starts (tiny plants that have already begun growing). There are pros and cons to each. To learn about specifics for your area, we recommend talking to your local nursery.
As you prep your garden, make sure all of your containers have holes in the bottom for adequate drainage. You may also want to add gravel or rocks to the bottom of your pot prior to adding in soil. Potting soil is best for container gardens, as it allows for better drainage than garden soil.
Planting your garden is a special time. Give yourself ample time to enjoy getting your hands dirty, mark the beginning of spring growing season and connect to the earth.
If this is your first time trying your (green-thumbed) hand at gardening, be patient with yourself. You’ll likely grow just as much as whatever you plant. Getting to know your space and your food on an intimate level is both an art and a science...one that evolves over a lifetime.
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