Gardening In Containers, No Space For A Garden?

The benefits of gardening in containers, and an example of types of plants and containers to use.

I have always had a garden of some type, but the year that we were putting in a basement for our new home I was afraid I was going to have to forgo the garden that year, until I got the idea to "container garden". A container garden is portable, easy to care for and simple to do. Technically anyone that has houseplants is a container gardener: this method just takes it to a little higher level.

I do have an added benefit in that we have a small salvage yard, so it was no problem for me to come up with containers to use in my gardening venture. Almost anything can be used for a container garden, as long as drainage holes can be placed in the container. Some of the items that I have used for container gardening are wooden boxes, hydraulic oil buckets, old pails, wash tubs and even a discarded wheelbarrow.

First of all, be sure to clean your containers, especially anything that had been used for oil storage. Just a little soap, water and elbow grease will prepare your containers for planting. Next drill some drainage holes in the bottom of your container. (You can even use old crocks or pottery here, just use a masonry drill bit) The next thing you need to do is place some stone or broken pieces of pottery in the bottom of your container over the drainage holes. This will keep the dirt from running out of the holes during watering, which can plug up your holes.

You are now ready to fill your containers with dirt: you can use purchased potting soil, but in my case since I was moving my gardens I dug the dirt from my existing gardens.

Now plant away! Almost anything can be used for container gardening, whether it be flowers, herbs or vegetables. Many gardening supply centers offer plants and seeds especially for gardening in containers. The items I choose were;

Zucchini- I purchased seeds for "bush type" zucchini and planted these in five gallon hydraulic oil buckets. Plant just like you would to plant in a regular "hill", using anywhere from three to five seeds per bucket. At harvesting time, these were extremely simple to pick, not hardly any bending over and since they were "contained," no searching for the squash.

Potatoes- Yes you can plant potatoes in buckets and now I don't grow them any other way. Again using a five gallon hydraulic oil bucket, place your seed potato in the soil. (No need to purchase seed potatoes either, use old potatoes that are starting to sprout. Just cut into "chunks" making sure that there is a sprout or "eye" in each "chunk" that you plant) At harvesting time, just dump out your bucket! No more digging potatoes.

Lettuce- I used a half of a barrel, any lettuce variety will work for this. Again, no bending to pick your lettuce. Since my container was rather large in diameter, I planted my seeds at different times in certain areas in the barrel. This way I could harvest lettuce during the entire summer.

Pansies- I planted my pansies in a large wooden box. They loved it! I had pansies even blooming during the winter, and since again they were contained they reseeded themselves so I didn't have to replant the following year.



Morning Glories- I simply planted my seeds in several large pots and strung a trellis of string over the top of the pots by poking some large sticks in the dirt. I still am using this method with my Morning Glories, but I now have a permanent trellis over the plants.

Cherry Tomatoes- I purchased six regular plants and placed them in an old washtub. I have never had such big plants. Staking them was simple and I believe that I picked a pint a day for weeks. Of course I couldn't keep the kids out of them!

In my wheelbarrow I planted geraniums, and other annual flowers. This worked really well, since all I had to do to mow the yard was wheel my container out of the way, then put it back after the mowing was completed.

I also purchased a "strawberry jar", which is a large clay pot with holes in the sides. These can be purchased at any gardening center. I planted a variety of "patio strawberries" in this container and we were eating fresh strawberries picked right in our backyard.

This is just a sampling of some of the items that I have used for container gardening. Use your imagination and see what you can come up with. Other than purchasing "bush type" seeds or plants anything can be grown in containers, even sweet corn.

Watering and fertilizing is very easy also. Since I grouped all of my containers around my deck, everything was within easy reach of my hose. Do be sure to water often (I generally water in the evenings on days that we do not have any rain) since the containers do not retain as much water as the ground does. I also fertilized my plants once a week using a system that hooked to my hose. My plants were all very happy and healthy.

Also arrange your containers in a eye pleasing group. Most people didn't even know that I was using very ugly bright yellow hydraulic oil buckets for "pots". I would place smaller containers in front of the buckets and once my plants matured you could not even see them. Don't be afraid to group vegetable and flower containers together, the different combinations of colors and textures can be very eye appealing.

Even though I now have my permanent gardens back in the ground, I still do a lot of container gardening on my deck. This gardening method is perfect for apartment dwellers who don't have the space for a regular garden, but would still enjoy reaping the benefits of a garden. Also for elderly people, that have a hard time getting around or bending over. Since the container height can be adjusted by sitting them up on tables or blocks of some type you can have all of your plants at your finger tips. This is an excellent method to use with children too, since everything is compact they can help plant and see the results of their labors.

Weeding is a cinch. There is actually not much room for weeds to grow and depending on the soil that you use or purchase many are weed free. Again not much bending to pull weeds and since everything is contained there is no chance for grass clippings to invade your garden.

Another benefit of container gardening is that some of your non-seasonal plants can be taken in the house during the winter and replaced back outside in the spring. As long as they are not hit by frost you can enjoy tomatoes, lettuce and flowers all winter long.

The time that it takes to care for a container garden is minimal, just a little time in the evening to water, weed and harvest. Anyone can do this type of gardening, give it a try and enjoy the "fruits" of your labor. It is also a great way to recycle containers that others have discarded.

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