Whether you’re a city dweller and don’t have room for an entire garden or prefer to stay indoors, starting a container garden can be the perfect solution for those looking for a convenient way to grow beautiful plants and fresh vegetables within their own homes.

However, before you make that trip to your local garden centre or start growing plants in containers, it’s important to spend some time observing and learning about your growing space. 

Starting a container garden

Good morning, sunshine!

One of the most important elements a garden needs to grow is sunlight, so be sure to observe how much natural sunlight your growing space gets at certain times throughout the day and during different seasons. Depending on what you’re planning to grow, you will want to identify the spots with the least and most amount of sunlight. Because the position and height of the sun continuously changes with the seasons, the amount of sun that ultimately reaches your space will vary. Be sure to also consider what other factors may impact the amount of sunlight your garden gets, such as growing trees outside.

Keep in mind that it may take several seasons to be able to completely understand how the sun works to reap the most benefits of a flourishing container garden, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t go to plan first time around. Once you have a good idea of the amount of sun your growing space will receive on an annual basis (at least 6 hours of sunlight per day is ideal), you can then find and plant specific crops that will grow most efficiently.

Location, location, location

Whether you have a deck, roof garden, or a simple patch of well-lit space reserved for your container garden, be sure to consider what else you will want to use the growing space for. You should also consider how the placement of the container garden will impact the success of its growth.

Think about utilising vertical spaces as well and install shelves on walls that receive a significant amount of sunlight throughout the year. In addition, if your container garden is located on a windowsill, rooftop, or on the edge of a balcony, the method in which you secure the planters and pots will be very important. Be sure to account for the weight of the soil and pots as well.

Even if you live in a colder than average climate, you can still grow yourself a successful container garden. Simply place the pots or containers near a wall that is facing south. On the other hand, if you live in a warmer area, beware cement patios as they can radiate enough heat to reduce plant growth.

Tools and supplies

Before you begin planting, there are a few tools you should pick up. These can be found at any local hardware store or gardening centre:

  • Several inches of high-quality compost or good soil
  • Planters (ranging in size) that provide aeration for roots
  • Hand-held garden cultivator

As a new gardener, simple herbs like rosemary, basil, and mint are highly recommended to start growing with, especially if your growing space is limited. Not only are they easy to grow, but you may even find saving yourself several trips to the market for fresh herbs when you already have them in your own home.

Certain vegetables can also be fairly simple to grow in a container garden, such as greens and lettuces depending on the available growing space. Similar to herbs, growing your own vegetables can also be a wise investment.

Size matters

If you are not planning on starting your container garden from seeds, the vegetables and herbs you buy will probably already come in small plastic pots. However, in order to achieve maximum growth and yield from your container garden, they will need a lot more room to spread their roots and grow. When it comes to choosing the size of the pots and planters for your container garden, keep in mind that the more soil there is, the more moisture it holds. As a result, you won’t have to water your plants nearly as often. For this reason, the first thing you should do is transfer the plants from the small plastic pots to larger containers, especially if you are growing herbs.

“Feed me, Seymour!”

Though vegetables don’t tend to put up a fuss regardless of what kind of pot they’re growing in, the kind of nutrients they get from the soil will be crucial. Many garden centres and hardware stores offer special soil mixes designed for container gardens. On the other hand, if you’re looking to save a little money, you can opt to make your own soil mix.

When growing food in containers, 2-4 inches of compost soil will usually be sufficient, but the amount of soil you add will also depend on the size of the pot. Seeds can simply be scattered evenly across the soil, but sprouts will need a few more inches of space around the roots for optimum growth.

Of course, always remember to water your plants on a regular basis. If you are planting herbs, make sure that the soil is somewhat damp at all times in order to keep the planters from drying out, but be sure not to overwater so that the soil is wet through.