Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Creating a Container Garden

By Christina VanGinkel

Gardening is something that many people just take for granted. They have a large back yard or acreage in abundance, where they can plot and plan for everything from vegetables, to flowers, or even an orchard if that is their desire. Those same people may someday find themselves living in a small apartment, or in a locale, that putting in even a small garden just is not applicable. There may be no land to speak of, just a plot of cement, or there may be a spot that might seam ideal for a small garden, but a landlord may not want the grass dug up to make room for one. Thankfully, this does not mean that those who might find themselves in these positions have to give up gardening completely. Container gardening is always an option, and can be done in the smallest apartments, on a patio, or even on a tiny balcony or windowsill if need be. Remember that if you create your container garden inside, that drainage is still an issue, so be sure to place all of your containers into a secondary container to catch the water. Oversized cookie sheets work well to gatherer several small or one larger container on.

First, assess how much space you do have. A single windowsill can support quite a few small containers. Consider space you might otherwise overlook, such as a cement or brick patio, windowsills, or space in front of a window. Containers can be anything from discarded coffee cups and bowls, to empty coffee cans, old boots, an empty teapot, or unused watering can, even an old discarded drawer. I once came across the drawers from an old library cabinet at an estate sale, the sort that held the cards. Each drawer was only a couple of inches wide, but about eighteen inches long. They fit perfectly in a windowsill. To be sure, that drainage was not a problem, I used a double layer of bowl covers, the kind that stretch to fit any cover and have a band of elastic around the edge. They pull up snug around just about any shape container. I am still regretting not picking up every single one they had instead of the couple that I did. I was at first concerned with the fact that the wood might rot quickly, but I used clear plastic and lined the interior of each before I filled them with dirt. I still used a layer of newspaper in the bottom of each to cut down on soil loss, and drilled through the plastic liner and the bottom of each in several spots to allow good drainage. While I realize the wood is still more susceptible to not lasting as long as say, a ceramic coffee cup, the size, and shape outweigh this fact, and I know I will still get several good years of use out of each of them by just taking a bit of care.

Just about any small or mid sized items are workable, as long as the item is capable of holding soil, and if need be, allow drainage holes to be drilled. If you have a spot big enough to situate it, you can have a successful container garden. Be sure not to use a container that is overly large if moving the container will be a concern in the future though. If you are renting for example, and will want to be able to easily move the garden, keep this fact under careful consideration as you plan you garden.

As important as the issue of space, is being sure of what it is you want to grow. A wide variety of plants will grow well in containers, even very small ones. Several varieties of tomatoes will grow exceptionally well in a container, as long as there is adequate soil and drainage. Some herbs grow well in very limited space, as will most flowers and vegetables. Other than some shrubbery and larger trees, you can grow almost any plant you want too. My mother had an assortment of small dwarf fruit trees in her apartment for years. If you want to grow a garden but space has been an issue, do not let it be an issue a single day more. Create your own container garden, and enjoy tending your garden the same as if you had acres of land to plant!

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