Whether you’re just moving into a new home and don’t want to commit to planting a large garden, or you’ve never gardened before and don’t know where to start, container gardens are a great way to ease into it without a lot of effort.
You can grow vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers in containers, but there are a few things you need to think about when planning (and planting) your container garden.
What Do You Want to Grow?
Just about anything (other than trees, mostly) can be grown in containers, but you will want to choose different plants based on the size of your container and the space where it needs to grow.
For instance, you can grow miniature roses in containers, but standard-sized plants would not be happy with the limited root space of most containers. All kinds of tomatoes will grow in containers, but you might do better to stick with cherry tomatoes or varieties designed to grow in pots if space is an issue.
Most flowers will do well in containers, but, as with all plants, you need to think about how large the plant will get at its peak and leave enough room for your garden to grow when you are planting.
What Conditions Do Your Plants Need?
Many vegetables like tomatoes and peppers need a lot of sun, while lettuce and other greens can do with less. Some herbs are better in a little shade, and flowers and green plants can run the spectrum from full sun to full shade.
As you’re thinking about what types of plants you want to grow, think about where you have space for containers and what sort of sunlight conditions you have. You’ll want to plant different things out in the open versus under trees.
How do you know what conditions different plants need? A quick search online can tell you about the best conditions for different kinds of plants generally, and the garden center will have plants arranged so that those with different light needs are together. That way if you’re planning a shade garden, for example, you’ll know you’re making good choices.
What Pots Should You Buy?
Now that you have some idea of what you want to plant and where, you need to think about the size of containers you need for your container gardens.
Herbs can be grown in window-box-size containers, with a couple of plants in each, or in individual small pots. Tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables will like larger pots where their root systems can spread. A large plant or a small garden can easily live in a half barrel, which I use a lot in my yard.
Again, think about how big the plant is going to be when it’s grown and try to plant it in a large enough container to begin with so you don’t have to transplant it later.
If your plants will need to be moved for any reason, such as to get more or less sunlight or to move off a covered porch in the summer, make sure the pots are sized so you can move them or are on wheels – plants, pots and soil are heavy!
Watch the Water.
During the summer in Arkansas, plants in container gardens may need to be watered every day, or even more often. Check them in the morning or evening by putting your finger in the soil down to the second knuckle. If the soil at your fingertip feels dry, you need to water.
Water containers deeply, until water runs out the drain hole at the bottom, because the roots are probably at the bottom of the container and you want to make sure the water has filtered down to them. Make sure you’re watering the soil, not the leaves, and remember that vegetables that have a lot of water in them such as tomatoes and cucumbers need a lot of water to grow. To be successful, you’ll want to keep them moist.