How to Get Started with Urban Container Gardening

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    Excited to dive into urban container gardening but feeling a bit lost on how to kick things off? No worries if you’re short on space or rocking an apartment—gardening is still possible! This guide has got your back, breaking down the steps to get your container garden rolling and transform even the tiniest spots into lush, green retreats.

    Materials NeededSteps
    The plants you selectDetermine a location
    ContainersSelect the plants you want
    Potting mixChoose the right container
    Gardening gloves (optional)Add potting mix
    Watering can/containerPlace your plants in the container

    Step 1: Determine a location

    When scouting the perfect spot for your container garden, start by taking a look at the available light levels, making sure they match your chosen plants’ needs. Some like a full 6–8 hour sunbathing session, while others are okay with a bit of shade. 

    Then, decide if you’re going to keep your container indoors or outdoors! This will depend on the types of plants you get. 

    • Indoor locations: Windowsills and sunny indoor areas
    • Outdoor locations: Balcony, doorstep or patio

    Step 2: Select the plants you want

    Believe it or not, there’s a wide variety of plants that thrive in containers. However, some deserve a spot in your garden bed rather than a pot. 

    • Flowers like zinnias and marigolds, as well as veggies like tomatoes, peppers, and herbs such as basil and rosemary, are container champs. 
    • On the other hand, pumpkins, melons, cauliflower, and cucumbers are best left to roam freely in the garden. 

    You can even try your hand at cultivating some dwarf fruit trees for a unique touch. Just remember to be practical with your plant choices, making sure they can comfortably coexist in the space you’ve designated. Learn more about some of the best plants for containers here. 

    And remember to be realistic with the amount of plants you select and make sure they can all fit in the allotted space you have. 

    Step 3: Choose the right container

    Along with the many different plants you can choose from, there’s also a lot of containers that plants can grow in. Here are a few things you should consider:

    • Durability: This ensures that the container can withstand the elements and last for a longer period of time, which as a result, can save time and money on replacements.
    • Look: For some, aesthetics can play a major factor in a container garden. It can enhance the overall look of your outdoor space by adding color and texture to complement your selected plants and your desired design aesthetic.
    • Drainage: Drainage is crucial as it allows excess water to escape from the container, preventing waterlogging and root rot, which can lead to unhealthy plants. If your container doesn’t have holes, you can drill some yourself.
    • Size: The size of your container should match your plant choices; for instance, tomatoes require bigger and deeper pots for sturdy root growth, whereas thyme prefers shallower, wider containers since it spreads horizontally instead of deep into the soil.
    • Material: The ideal container material depends on your preferences and plant requirements. In hot, dry climates, consider porous materials to retain moisture, while for small spaces like balconies, opt for lighter, easily movable options. Porous materials like unglazed terracotta prevent waterlogging, while durable choices like concrete and metal require less maintenance and last longer.

    Here are some container ideas:

    • Vertical containers
    • Window boxes
    • Plastic containers
    • Grow bags
    • Ceramic pots
    • Barrels
    • Hanging baskets
    • Terracotta pots
    • Clay pots
    • Metal containers
    • Wooden planter boxes

    Step 4: Add potting mix

    Regular garden soil doesn’t have drainage, aeration, moisture control or nutrients necessary for potted plants. Go with a potting mix—not potting soil. The mix should hold moisture and nutrients around your plant’s roots, be light and airy and provide structure for your plants. 

    Step 5: Position your plant in the container

    1. Begin by filling the bottom third of the container with a potting mix.
    2. Then, carefully remove the plant from its nursery container by gently squeezing the sides to release the root ball and sliding it out. 
    3. Position the plant at the center of the container and surround it with more potting mix, leaving about 1 inch of space below the container’s rim. 
    4. Water the plant thoroughly until excess water drains from the bottom.
    5. Lastly, adjust the potting mix level (if needed) and water the plant regularly based on its specific requirements.

    Awesome job on getting your container garden going! Now that your plants are settling into their new containers, you’ll need to create a regular care routine. Moving to a new spot and soil can be a bit overwhelming for them, so it’s important to help them out a little. Remember, whether you’re in a cozy apartment or dealing with limited space, you can still enjoy the pleasures of gardening!

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