A common concern of a beginner gardener is a lack of space. True enough, how can you start a garden when you don’t have enough space?
Answer: container gardening
Using containers to grow your food is the best move when you lack space for your plants. Even your empty plastic bottles can be repurposed for planting!
But how do you make sure that your plants thrive despite not being directly on the ground?
Here are container gardening tips for beginners that you will find useful!
1. Plant what you eat or what you want to eat.
There are many vegetables, fruits and herbs you can plant that it may overwhelm you. So the best is to start with those that you are already eating, or those that you want to eat.
What veggies do you often prepare at the dinner table? Do you want a salad to be a constant part of your diet? Plant the ingredients!
For example… in our case, it’s lettuce salad. Our typical lettuce salad consists of lettuce, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, and onions, with a bit of lemon juice.
So I would start with that in my garden. I would plant lettuce, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, white onions and lemon.
2. Choose dwarf varieties of plants.
Almost every plant can grow on containers. You just have to pick its dwarf version.
For example – lemons. Lemons grow naturally into trees and planting it directly on the ground is the best for it. But, there are lemon dwarf varieties that grow as well in pots and containers.
These are meyer, lisbon, and panderosa. Seek out any of these varieties and you’ll have a happy lemon in a pot.
3. Pick the appropriate container size for each of your plants.
Every plant has a different need for space. Make sure you give it that space.
Let’s take a tomato for example.
Young tomatoes don’t need a lot of space. So you can crowd them in a container when they’re just but a few inches in height.
As a tomato plant matures, it grows higher, and with that growth is its need for more space. It won’t thrive in a small or overcrowded pot anymore.
You’ve got to transplant it to a bigger container. And there should be just one tomato in a container.
So the container size depends on the plant that will live in it.
4. Make sure there are enough holes for drainage.
Drainage is very important for a plant. Excess water must not be trapped within the container. Or else, it will cause the roots to rot, and your plant will die.
So make sure your container has enough holes for excess water to get through.
5. Always give the plants enough water.
Container gardening requires watering more frequently than when you plant directly on the ground.
But I’m not saying water everyday because that’s not applicable to all plants in all situations. The need to water depends on the plant and on the weather.
Check your plants daily. When the soil is dry, that’s the indicator that the plants need water. However, if the weather is hot and dry, like during summer, you may need to water your plants daily or even twice a day.
6. Fertilize as needed. Use organic fertilizer.
Container gardening needs enough fertilizers for the plants to thrive. Even if you started with a nutrient-dense potting mix, it will soon be drained of nutrients as the plant consumes it.
Fertilize your plants once every two weeks, or once a week when you are using a weak nutrient solution.
Use organic fertilizer! That’s why you are gardening in the first place, right? To produce nutritious food without harmful chemicals. So make sure your fertilizer is organic.
7. Make your own compost from kitchen waste.
Plants love compost. And you can make your own from kitchen waste. It’s organic fertilizer and it’s free! What could be better than that?!
Set aside vegetable and fruit peelings. Also keep over-ripe fruits and veggies. Put it in a pot or a bin and add enough soil. Wait for it until it turns into a dark soil-like mixture altogether. Then it can be spread on the plant.
You can bury your kitchen waste directly on the ground. Then use that soil to fertilize your plants later.
Another great organic fertilizer is egg shells.
Dry them out under the sun. Pulverize them, then just spread on the plant’s soil.
8. Let your plants receive the sunlight that they need.
Just like water, sunlight needs depend on the plant.
There are plants that need full sunlight, like six to eight hours of sunlight to survive. Among these are tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and corn.
Others thrive in partial sun only – four to six hours of direct sunlight. These include beets, broccoli, cabbage and onions.
And then there are others that grow on full shade – two hours of diffused sunlight. Plants here are lettuce, spinach, arugula and kale.
So don’t just place your containers wherever you please and then hope and pray that your plants survive.
Some plants love the sun while others want to live cool.
So notice the areas in your home. Be aware of the places where there is full sunlight, partial or shade. Position your plants accordingly.
9. Protect your plants from pets.
Last week, hubby made a plot for transplanting pak choi. He placed a net on top as a protection.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough protection. The plot became a playing ground for our mischievous cats.
And you can guess what happened to the baby pak choi. All of them died.
You may love your pets but if you don’t properly protect your plants, your lovely pets are going to run through them and kill them.
10. Tend to your plants daily.
Container gardening is not a plant it today and it will take care of itself scheme. You have to monitor your plants.
When you visit your garden daily, you will see what needs to be done.
Is the soil dry? It’s time to water.
Have you fertilized it yet? Put some already.
Is there some yellow squiggly lines on the leaves? There’s probably a leaf miner lurking around. Get rid of it before it damages your plants!
When you don’t tend to your plants daily, you won’t notice these things. And when you do notice, it’s probably too late.
Give your plants proper care and they will take care of you when harvest comes.
Some of your plants will die.
I know it’s discouraging for me to say this. You haven’t even started yet and somebody will tell you your plants will die.
I’m not saying this to discourage you. I simply want you to have the right expectations. And that is… some of your plants will thrive. But some really won’t make it. And that’s okay! That’s the reality of container gardening.
All the more reason for you to start planting now. And learn everything you can about your plants!
The more knowledge you have about your plants, the more realistic are your expectations, and the more you’ll be able to give it the proper care until it’s time for harvest.