By Hannah Wente
Container gardening is one way to enjoy growing veggies, plants and flowers with a lower commitment. It also doesn’t require a lot of space (hello, condo and apartment dwellers!). Start small with these recommendations from Josh Smith, owner of Kopke’s Greenhouse.
- Identify your unique growing conditions. Indoor or outdoor? Full sun or partial sun? Cardinal direction? (Southern exposure is best.) “Understand where you’re going to be growing and what kind of conditions you have. That’s going to determine what types of plants you grow. Even shade plants need some light to grow,” explains Smith.
- Do your research. Look online or talk to your local garden expert about what grows best in your conditions. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions, says Smith. “Get more than one opinion. It’s like visiting the doctor. Find someone who’s being successful doing what you want to do and lean on them. Ask them: ‘How do you do what you do?’ Find some- body that is passionate about the same types of plants that you’re thinking about trying.”
- Buy seeds or starter plants. If you are germinating seeds, start in early February. Local nurseries start selling starters in mid-May. Smith suggests thinking about what recipes you’d like to make, such as tomatoes and basil, for a fresh caprese appetizer.
- Use the right materials. Find the right potting mix or soil for what you’re growing. “Potting mixes are designed for different plants, so they’re going to hold water differently, hold nutri- ents differently and circulate air differently. Look for a general purpose herb and vegetable mix like Premiere Pro or an organic mix,” says Smith.
- Check your plants daily. Plants need water when the soil feels bone-dry. They need a break from watering when the soil feels soggy. “An important factor to consider when purchasing any kind of container is to make sure it has drainage. The biggest thing I see people screw up on is the watering — too much or not enough.” And remember: “Most plants don’t want wet feet.”
SMALL SPACE, BEAUTIFUL RESULTS
- Things like rosemary, thyme and other herbs do well in pots and can give your patio a fresh look. Base the container size on how prolific the plant is.
- Wooden raised garden beds are great for older adults and people with back pain. Lettuce and other greens grow well in neat, colorful rows.
- Place succulents and other houseplants in front of sunny, south-facing windows.
- A plastic self-watering container can be rolled into sun or shade. The bottom holds water so the plants can take what they need throughout the day, leading to less over-watering.