Green thumbs with small spaces or balconies may need to get a bit more creative when planting, but there are lots of options for gardening enthusiasts. That’s where container gardening comes in.
“You can buy containers designed to be wall-mounted, to sit on railings and even to self-water,” says Andrea Bellamy, author of Small-Space Vegetable Gardens: Growing Great Edibles in Containers, Raised Beds, and Small Plots. “Besides size, consider weight. Lightweight plastic is great for balconies and bad backs. Terracotta often cracks at below-freezing temperatures,” she says. “Let your personal style influence the rest of your choices.”
Keep drainage in mind
Your pot should have holes for drainage, but be careful if you’re on a balcony. You’ll want to make sureyou have something to catch water runoff, such as a tray.
You’ll need to water your containers regularly, if not every day, especially in the summer. The best time to water is early in the morning, which gives the plant time to absorb water before the heat of the day dries out the soil.
Once you’re ready to plant, make sure you purchase potting soil, which is lighter weight than garden soil. There are special formulations for vegetables and blooms—or all-purpose for both.
Choose hardy plants
Gardens in smaller spaces may be subject to more difficult growing conditions because they’re often in an urban setting. Shade, blazing heat and wind are also factors to consider when picking your plants. Bellamy says you can mitigate these environmental factors by introducing a trellis to provide protection.
Need help with your plant selection?
Set your garden up for success by choosing flowers, vegetables and herbs that will flourish in containers.
Flowers like pansies and marigolds thrive in containers and are pretty in a single-species pot. You can also combine plants by adding some foliage or herbs—like flat-leaf parsley or pineapple sage—among the flowers.
Look for veggie varieties that are meant to be grown in containers or small spaces. Clues can be found on seed packets or plant tags: for example, “Patio Snacker” cucumbers, “Tiny Tim” tomatoes and “Sugar Baby”mini watermelons.
Too much shade on your balcony? Most leafy greens, like coleus and ornamental grass, are happy in partially shaded areas. Perhaps your backyard scorches in the afternoon sun. Opt for Mediterranean herbs, like rosemary and basil, which Bellamy says can handle the heat.
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