Every day I hear something from the news or on social media talking about the benefits of fresh herbs and vegetables – even if it’s just that using them makes food taste better. But what if you don’t have the space for a big garden, or a convenient farmer’s market? Container gardens are becoming more and more popular, allowing you to grow fresh herbs and veggies on your porch or deck, so that the freshest produce is right outside your door!
Benefits of Container Gardening
The benefits of container gardening are many and varied, including convenience, soil to kitchen control over the produce you serve your family, enhancing your outdoor space and the cost-effectiveness of growing your own produce compared with buying it at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. In addition, growing your garden in containers allows you the ultimate flexibility in positioning for the best sunlight for any given time of year and creates an environment where any potential problems, like fungi and other plant diseases will not spread to the rest of your garden.
Challenges of Container Gardening
Container gardens can be a bit of a challenge because they rely on the gardener for all nutrients – meaning you’re responsible for making sure each container is getting the proper amount of nutrients, water and sunlight that the plant inside it requires, which can vary significantly. You may need to water certain plants twice a day in the hotter summer months, but that much water could kill the plant in a different container. But as long as you understand the differences in what the plants in your garden need, this is a challenge easily overcome. There are several great resources that can tell you about the care your specific herbs and vegetables will need. My favorites are the Garden Guides and AZ Master Gardener Manual pages.
Do Your Research
Since there are some significant differences in how you care for in-ground plants compared to container plants, it’s important to do your research when looking to grow any particular vegetable or herb in a container. For example, one of the most significant differences is root temperature – in-ground roots will never warm up as much as roots in containers can, so to grow plants that need cooler roots you may need to use a larger, light-colored container to minimize the effect of the sun. Mother Earth News has a great article for the beginner container gardener, including container-friendly plants and information on everything from the best buckets, soil and fertilizer to use to using your containers as design elements on your deck.
For added benefit from your container garden, choose acceptable pots and decorate them to fit your personal style, or keep track of your potted garden with this great idea from Martha Stewart.