So You Want a Container Garden?
by Rebecca Rhinehart
This is an introduction to how we began container gardening while living in an urban townhouse with limited space. Confined to just a front and back porch, we are trying to make the most of our limited square footage. While we do not claim to know everything about gardening and the best practices to do so, we are making due. These are my top 3 tips to beginning your journey into creating your urban oasis on a porch.
What season is it?
This was my first big mistake when collecting seeds and starter plants. Going into a Home Depot there is typically a wide variety of vegetable starts waiting to go home with you. But grabbing something like Arcadia Broccoli in late May isn’t the best choice. Some plants thrive in cooler fall and winter weather, which you don’t want to invest in during the summer months. After purchasing broccoli in late spring living in Charleston South Carolina, those guys aren’t thriving in this heat. Timing is key and a tiny bit of research goes a LONG way.
Find the sun
A major step to consider what plants to start is what kind of sun exposure your containers will get during the day. For us, our front porch gets the heaviest and most abundant full sun compared to our back steps. This meant we divide our plants between those who prefer full hot sun compared to partial shade. Staples of the front garden consist of tomatoes and a huge variety of herbs. The back steps typically get close to 5 hours of early morning sun, shaded through some tree cover. Micro-greens, radishes, pole beans and cucumbers live on the back steps and in hanging planters. Knowing how to best utilize your space and sunshine is so helpful to increase food grown.
Choosing your containers
When you are just starting off on your container garden, it can be daunting to see all of the expensive pots in the garden center. Start off re-purposing and cleaning what you can find at home, 5 gallon buckets and dollar store bins are a simple way to begin. Just drill plenty of drainage holes, fill with potting soil and seeds and you are good to go. Growing in containers it is very important to have drainage and fertilization. If the water can’t escape it puts roots in danger of rotting, drainage holes will save your plants.
Overall, our urban garden is held together with repurposed buckets, salvaged wood planters and a shameful amount of zip ties. Our apartment complex doesn’t have any rules on hanging items from porch rails or the ceiling. Since starting to grow some food items it has been so nice to have tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans and fresh herbs right outside our door.