If you’ve ever wanted to grow your own food but felt strapped for space and sunlight, container gardening could be a great option for you. In most aspects, it’s the same as gardening right in the ground, but you’ll need to think creatively, and consider a few extra things to ensure success. Here are some ideas and tips:
- Look for pools of sunlight in your yard and flowerbeds, or on your patio or deck. Use these spaces to place pots and planters that can hold veggies.
- Remember that varying height will allow you to take advantage of sunlight resources. Use taller, sun-loving plants to shade plants that can handle cooler, shadier conditions. (Example: tomatoes or trellised cucumbers above sweet potatoes or lettuce).
- Consider the root systems when choosing a container. Veggies like onions, lettuce, and brassicas like broccoli and kale have shallow root systems. Tomatoes and beets are some that will need larger pots.
- Use high quality soil mixes, or screened topsoil mixed with compost. Don’t use garden soil, and don’t use cheap bagged “topsoil” from the hardware store. The medium needs to be well drained and fertile.
- Recognize that your plants will have limited resources in a pot environment. You’ll have to pay special attention to water and fertility. You’ll need to water more often than in an in-ground bed, most likely. Options for fertilization are similar to that of in-ground plants. See our Garden Management Library page on Feeding your Garden Organically for more info.
- Use container gardening AND regular in-ground plantings together. This will allow you to make great use of vertical space.
- Be creative! Use baskets, old cans with drainage holes added, wood palettes, even bathtubs! You’ll be amazed at the things you can recycle into plant pots, and how all this stuff can be situated and cultivated to add to your home’s aesthetic. Have fun!
Organic Growers School is a non-profit organization providing organic education since 1993. Our mission is to inspire, educate, and support people in our region to farm, garden, and live organically.