Growing up, my parents were big garden people, growing just about every vegetable you can imagine in their backyard plot. I learned how to weed and water, dig potatoes and pull up carrots, break green beans by the bushel and pick only the prettiest bell peppers and the plumpest, sweetest strawberries and blackberries.
But my childhood experiences didn’t translate into a perfect garden of my own. I can blame it on a lot of things: Poor soil. Drainage issues. Abundant rabbits and hungry birds. Sigh. So much for carrying on the tradition of a beautiful, productive backyard vegetable garden.
But I finally decided last year to give the ol’ container garden idea a try.
I struggled with that, for some reason. I mean, it seemed like cheating somehow. Gardening is supposed to involve tillers and garden tools and rich brown dirt, not buckets and boxes and plastic bags of black garden soil. But I was tired of not being able to grow at least some of my own vegetables! And if “breaking the rules” a little bit was the only way to get it done, I decided I was ready to break away!
And I can’t fathom why I didn’t try it sooner!
If you’d love to grow vegetables of your own, but you consider yourself horticulturally-challenged, or you just don’t have the time or space for a big backyard garden, then a container garden is perfect for you! While it’s not exactly care-free, (a container garden will dry out more quickly, so it does need more frequent watering,) I’ve still found it to be so much easier than traditional earth gardening, at least in our current home.
So what makes container gardening easier?
For one, you can usually keep your garden right outside your door! With my old earth garden, my vegetables were in an inconvenient spot at the very back of my yard where I had to drag a super-long water hose back and forth from the house. Now I can water right on my back porch!
You can garden even if you don’t have a yard! Container gardens don’t have to take up much space, so they can be put in any sunny spot. A porch or patio, balcony, or even a rooftop can provide space enough for you to grow fresh vegetables.
It’s easier to keep pests at bay. Keeping plants up off the ground and nearer the house helps a lot with insects and animal pests, too. It won’t prevent every invasion, of course, but your plants are more likely to be in better soil, which makes them healthier and more insect and disease-resistant, and animals will likely find it more difficult to make a meal of your garden either because of less-convenient access or fear of coming too near your home.
Weeds are far less of a problem. In my traditional earth gardens I spent so much time weeding. Weeds make your plants weaker and more disease-prone by sucking a lot of important vitamins and minerals from the soil. Containers are very helpful in preventing the spread of weeds.
So how does a person get started?
If you’ve never put your hand in a bag of potting soil before, I don’t recommend going out and buying 16 bags of compost and every vegetable plant or seed you can think of. Start small, maybe with just a vegetable or two. Personally, I’ve had ridiculously easy success with lettuce and I loved having fresh salad every day all summer long. Lettuce is pretty cold-hardy, too, and with our milder winter last year, I actually had lettuce until Christmas!
But whatever vegetable you want to try, you can find the info you need to grow it! I love living in a day and age of such easy access to information: If you don’t know how to do something, no doubt there’s a book or blog or YouTube video to teach you! How awesome is that?
Let me share a few links to get you started:
This post from Better Homes and Gardens is one of the most thorough I’ve seen, offering tips on everything from which containers to use, the best soil choices, the best places to put your containers, and care instructions for specific plants: BHG.com: Growing Vegetables in Containers
This one from Bonnie Plants is great, too, even offering some great design ideas for your garden. Lots of beautiful pics: BonniePlants.com: Container Gardening
And I had to include this from DIY & Crafts. It’s all about container-friendly fruits and vegetables, including a few I may never have considered for my container garden before. Check out the strawberries. They look amazing: DIYnCrafts.com: The 35 Easiest Container and Pot Friendly Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs
If you’re more of an audio-visual learner, I like this video from Behnke Nurseries. The simple instructions for growing a “salad bowl” are a good and practical starting place for someone wanting to grow their own vegetables.
So are you ready to give a container garden a try? Believe me, it doesn’t take tons of work or a magic green thumb. If I can do this, you can do it, too. And before you know it, you’ll be enjoying homegrown vegetables of your own!
You’ll find this post linked up with some of these great blogs: