If you are limited in space, container gardening is an excellent way to cultivate your green thumb and grow food for yourself and wildlife. Containers can range from small to extra-large, with any size in between to fit your available space. Porches and balconies are excellent areas to start with. All you need to start are some pots, dirt, and a few of your plants (or seeds) of choice.
Tip 1. Ensure you have ample drainage.
This tip is essential for healthy and long-lasting plants. When too much water builds up in your pot the roots can begin to rot, starting the slow and preventable death of your plants. If holes in the bottom of your containers are too small or nonexistent, the soil can get waterlogged.
Unfortunately, many of the pots and containers sold today do not have adequate drainage. One small hole in the center may seem useful, but it isn't enough, especially for plants that call for watering daily or multiple times per week. This can certainly be remedied by drilling more holes in the bottom of your pots. Be sure that they are at least one-half inch in diameter for small or medium containers and one full inch for large ones. Three holes is a great place to start. If you don't have the DIY inclination, it may be worth it to shop around for containers with adequate drainage.
Tip 2. Evaluate your lighting conditions before purchasing plants.
It is well known that different plants require different light conditions, though it can be tempting to disregard them in favor of getting your favorite plant anyways. Before investing, check out the light conditions on your balcony, patio or wherever else you're planning to keep your plants. How many hours does the sun reach the area? Is it full sun? Dappled sun, partially covered by leaves of a tree? Or is the area completely shaded the entire day? Each of these conditions are right for different plants. If you ensure that your desired plants fit your space, they will be much more likely to thrive.
Tip 3. Make sure your plants have enough nutrients.
Though it can be easy to purchase the first fertilizer you see, you may want to do a bit of research if you are interested in keeping your container garden organic. Synthetic fertilizers often kill the beneficial microbes that live in the soil, sterilizing it. Incorporating compost in your planting medium before putting in your plants can ensure there are enough nutrients to get them off to a healthy start. Adding natural fertilizers afterwards is an excellent way to keep them that way. These can include blood meal, worm castings or chicken manure. Crops that mature quickly will need more frequent feedings than long-season crops.
Tip 4 Read plant tags for planning and organizing your container garden.
Plant tags usually contain all of the essential information you need to correctly care for your plants. The sun and water they require, the plant species, whether it's an annual or perennial and the optimal growing zones for their survival are all listed on the tag. The tags will also inform you of how large the plant will get and whether it grows straight up, trails over the sides of the pot or anything in between.
This information can also help you to make informed decisions about which plants fit best next to each other. You can combine plants with similar needs and different looks together, for example, to create variety and to make your little garden appealing to the eye. All of the plants you get need to be acclimatized to the sun and weather before getting settled in their permanent positions outside.
If any of your plants begin to wilt or die, try and find the root cause to prevent it from happening to any of your other plants. If you find signs of serious disease, be sure to remove it from the other plants right away to prevent any spread. Though these tips can help promote the best possible conditions for your plants to thrive, there is no such thing as a foolproof gardening method. The best advice of all is to learn from your mistakes, and then try again next year!