Container gardens are a viable and popular cultivation option, especially for those who have limited sun-exposed spaces or are looking to start small and learn the basics of gardening.
“Containers, whether bought or recycled, are a great place to plant herb and vegetable gardens,” says landscape designer, Doug Scott of Redeem Your Ground in Atlanta, GA. “But to get it right, there are a few things to keep in mind.”
To help you successfully cultivate a container garden, Scott offers the following pointers:
• Well-drained, not dry or overly wet soil, is necessary for herb and vegetable growth, so using bottom-draining pots with a peat-based potting soil specifically formulated for herbs and veggies will facilitate proper soil drainage and moisture retention.
• The proper container size depends on what you’ll be growing. Most small herbs do well in pots as small as eight inches in diameter, while larger plants may require a gallon pot or larger. For visual interest, consider repurposing items around the house to use as your container, such as an old pail.
• Incorporate a “thriller, filler, spiller” planting approach to maximize space and aesthetic appeal. This means tall focal plants in back, middle layer plants that fill in, and plants that will cascade over the container in front.
• Soil dries out more quickly in container gardens than garden beds, especially if you place containers outdoors in the sun. Perform daily soil moisture checks. You may need to water outdoor container gardens every day—and possibly twice a day—in extremely hot weather.
• Place your container garden where it will get the optimal amount of sunlight—between six and eight hours a day. The beauty of container gardens is their movability. You can even follow the sun as exposure changes throughout the seasons. Always refer to the care tags on the specific plant to determine a prime location.
• Gardens planted in a container are entirely dependent on you to provide nutrients. Start out with an organic, rich potting soil formulated for container gardens. Then, going forward, fertilize your container every two to four weeks by pouring a nutrient-rich liquid solution directly into the soil.
• Don’t forget to reap what you sow. Harvesting will generally help increase yields and prevent plants from outgrowing their containers. For best results, use this five-step method—water plants before harvesting, make clean cuts, keep them clean, dry your harvest quickly and store them away from sunlight and moisture.
More expert advice is available online. Scott has partnered with Exmark, a leading manufacturer of commercial mowers and equipment on a video series for DIY homeowners called “Done in a Weekend.” Among the free videos is “Contain Your Enthusiasm,” offering tips to help you successfully plant, grow and care for herbs and vegetable container gardens. To view the video, as well as access other videos in the series covering a range of home and garden topics, visit Exmark.com/DIY.
There are a few important considerations that every container gardener should know. Be sure you’re equipped with the proper tools and knowledge before getting started.