With the recent changes in the economy, home ownership is at a 13 year low across the US. There are more and more renters every day. Perhaps you’ve always preferred to live in a city center as a renter, or maybe life changes have unexpectedly made you a renter.
Whatever the case may be, you’re renting, and you’re daydreaming about a lawn and garden now that spring is underway. Very few of us urbanites have extensive outdoor space to cultivate plants and flowers, but we long for that fresh sign of life you find with new plant growth. One easy solution to the problem is container gardening.
By using containers, you can garden virtually anywhere – your balcony, your roof, your doorstep, front stoop, stairs, even outside your windows in attached window box planters.
What are the benefits of container gardening?
– You can use pretty much any container, although you will find disadvantages and advantages to each. This means your containers can be just as interesting as whatever you choose to grow. Using creative containers for your container garden will provide you with fantastic plants as well as lovely, unique décor.
– Containers can fit anywhere! You can put them inside, outside, even do an herb garden at the kitchen window. The possibilities are endless, and you don’t need a lot of space. Recently I came across a photo of someone using several window box planters on a small riser of three stairs – this set-up didn’t take up much space, and looked beautiful.
– Fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers year-round, regardless of weather. If you do place your containers outside, and a freeze is predicted, just carry them indoors to protect them.
– Curb appeal! Fresh flowers and plants add seasonal interest to your home.
– You will always be in control when you garden in containers, from temperature, to sunlight, to soil types, to water quality.
What should I look for in a container? If you’re buying a container, you must consider the material and size carefully before making a decision.
– Size matters! Consider what you’d like to plant before deciding on the size of container you need. If you are growing herbs, you may want something small. If you have some outdoor space and want to grow some fruits and vegetables, clearly you want a bigger container.
– Your container must have drainage holes. If you’re repurposing or recycling a disused household item for a container, an old glass carafe might not be a good idea. However, your child’s discarded Easter basket may be just right. You can drill the holes yourself, but again, you need a container made of material that will withstand drilling.
– Synthetic materials are the most obvious choice – inexpensive, easy to find, light and portable, retain water well, and easy to clean. Plastic/fiberglass planters are plentiful, you can pick them up anywhere. With the technology today, synthetic materials can be designed, molded, and colored to have the look of the more expensive options with the ease and convenience of synthetic materials. Synthetic materials are also customizable by you – if you’re a little artistic, or willing to experiment, you can make these materials into unique pieces of art.
– If you want a wooden container or a wooden planter, just remember that the wood must be sealed, or it could rot. There are woods that are more resistant to rot, such as cypress, redwood, walnut, cedar, some pines (research this prior to committing!), and more exotic woods such as osage orange, and black locust. These woods do not have to be treated prior to planting. As an added convenience, with wood, you can easily create your own planters to suit your size and shape requirements.
– Other earth materials to consider would be clay, terracotta, ceramic, and stone planters. Although these materials are both subtle and are beautiful, there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
– Clay pots are very fragile, and can dry out quickly.
– Terracotta pots release a lot of moisture, so you have to be very careful with the watering schedule. Your soil will dry much quicker in a terracotta pot. With terracotta, one trick is to soak the pot in water before planting, this may help with water retention.
– Glazed ceramic pots are a great choice, as water does not seep out of them like with terracotta. Thus, water is retained longer, much like with plastic / synthetic containers.
– Natural stone planters are beautiful, come in various shapes and sizes, require very little maintenance, and are very sturdy and durable. However, they are heavy! If you are planning on moving your gardens around, you may want a more lightweight option.
What kinds of plants can be grown in containers?
– Always wanted an herb garden? There are quite a few herbs that grow well in containers, including basil, lavender, chives, lemon, catnip, chicory (amazing in coffee!), garlic, mint, oregano, dill, mustard, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (had to, sorry!)
– Vegetables are great for containers too. Generally, any vegetable that you can grow in your yard, you can grow in a container. Of course, specific vegetables will need specific container sizes – you can’t really grow potatoes in a tiny shoebox-sized container. Some container garden favorites are beans, summer squash, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, peppers, green onions, and eggplant.
– Flowers are always a great option as well. Pretty much any flower will grow well in a container, so long as you are careful with watering, soil, and light.
So, the moral of the story is, there are many options if you don’t have much space, but you want to exercise your green thumb. As an apartment dweller, you don’t have to miss out, you just have to get creative!