It’s not necessary to have a huge backyard, or a ton of space to start gardening. More and more people are turning towards container gardening — the practice of growing plants in potted containers instead of planting them directly into the ground — to enjoy the benefits of growing their own vegetables when they don’t have a large backyard to work with. This is perfect for apartment dwellers or people just looking to try their hand at gardening before ripping up a chunk of their lawn.
With these 6 great tips, almost anyone can transform a small space into a successful container garden area and reap the benefits.
1. Look for smaller containers
To start your project off on the right foot it’s important to get containers that are going to maximize the space you have available. It’s not necessary to spend the money on expensive potting containers to grow vegetables on your back patio. Get creative and look for containers that are wide and fairly shallow, that will hold potting soil. Plastic dishpans are perfect for this and can be picked up fairly inexpensively at the local dollar store or big box retailer. Look for thick walled polyethylene containers as this plastic is considered safe and won’t leach chemicals into the potting soil.
2. Use good quality soil
An important part of growing any plants in containers is starting off with good quality potting soil. As tempting as it may be to dig up soil from the ground somewhere, avoid doing this; spend the money and buy potting soil instead. It’s made specifically for containers to be free of diseases and pathogens, and will not compact like earthen soil does. Soil compaction means the roots struggle to grow the way they want to, and can stunt the plant. According to Bonnie Plants, a good potting soil is light, holds moisture and provides roots the perfect balance of air, moisture, nutrients, and anchorage.
3. Grow high yield plants
To get the most out of your limited real estate, it’s wise to stick with plants that will give you the most bang for your buck. You want plants that yield as much as possible while only needing a small amount of space to grow. Common Sense Homesteading has a great list of plants that have high yields for small spaces. Plants such as bush beans, lettuce, radishes, and onions will yield more in limited space that broccoli or cabbage that only has a single harvest per season. Some varieties of tomatoes grow well in containers too. Your local garden center can provide recommendations on varieties that are shorter and may not need to be staked or supported.
4. Plant herbs
Planting herbs is a great way to take advantage of a small outside area and transforming it into a garden space. Herbs will regenerate quickly, providing you with a (fairly) constant source of harvestable material.
5. Take advantage of vertical space
If you are limited on space it’s important to maximize what you do have available. One great way to do this is taking advantage of vertical space and plant upwards. This can be done by building vertical units, purchasing specialized planters, or simply buying plastic shelving and placing it in a spot where the entire shelving unit receives sunlight during the day. Then put containers on each of the individual shelves. Voila! Instantly you have way more space to work with.
6. Invite pollinators
If you are gardening on a patio or balcony, there’s a good chance there are limited plants around. This means natural pollinators might not frequent your patio/balcony already. To make sure your vegetables are pollinated — so the fruit can form — it’s important to invite pollinators to the containers. Intersperse some flowers amongst your veggies to bring bees, butterflies, and/or hummingbirds to your garden.