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Building your own container garden can be the perfect way to enjoy a garden if you have limited space or poor soil. It can be a great way to grow all kinds of plants, herbs and vegetables and with the right tools and techniques, it’s possible to create a thriving container garden.
A container garden is exactly as it sounds. Instead of planting your seedlings or seeds into a garden bed, you instead will plant them into a soil filled container. There are several advantages to this, such as being able to move the container to capitalize on the ideal amount of sunlight or being able to grow a garden on an apartment patio.
To build your own container garden, there’s just four easy steps involved. First, start by planning your garden, thinking about the container, the plants and the soil. Then it’s time to fill that container with soil, whether you buy a commercial potting mix or mix your own. Then you can pop those plants into the container. Finally, you just need to follow some easy maintenance tips to ensure your container garden lasts all season.
Ready to get started? Let’s start with a basic materials list and where to consider shopping for these materials.
Materials Needed To Get Started:
Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of things to get started, but you’ll want:
- Container with drainage holes
- Landscape fabric
- Plants with similar growing requirements
- Garden tools, such as a shovel
- Potting mix
- Time-release or granular fertilizer
For drainage, you want to find a container that has at least one drainage hole for every inch. You can always add additional holes by drilling through your container as well.
Where to Shop:
Knowing where to shop is key, as you can ensure that you get exactly what you want without having to blow your bank account up.
Some of my favorite places to shop for gardening things are:
- Home Depot
- Canadian Tire
- Home Hardware
- Local Nurseries – If you’re keen to shop locally, you can’t go wrong here!
If you can’t find the container you want from one of your local stores, Amazon and Wayfair can be great options to consider and they have fairly decent shipping times, so you won’t be waiting six months to get your container.
1. What to Figure Out First
Before you jump right into planting your container garden, you need to do a bit of pre-planning to set yourself up for success. Besides picking your container (or containers if you’re feeling ambitious!), you’ll want to put some thought into the plants you’d like and the location in your yard or patio that would be suited for those plants.
The “Thriller, Filler & Spiller” Method
If you read anything about gardens, you will encounter a method of planting that involves selecting your plants by:
- Thrillers – tall plants that rise above the container. Usually one central plant.
- Flax Lily
- Lady Palms
- Fillers – smaller plants that remain closer to the soil that “fill” the space in.
- Moss rose
- Cooking herbs
- Spillers – cascading plants that flow over the edge of the container.
- Trailing begonia
- Trailing rosemary
Do a bit of research on your desired plants to ensure that they will “play” well together. Certain plants will overpower others, whilst other combinations seem to thrive better together.
If you’re concerned about estimating the amount of natural light your plants will get, one trick you can try is to take pictures (with timestamps) at various parts of sunny days to see how many hours you can expect certain spots to get daily.
If your desired plant wants “full sun”, aim to place it in a spot that gets at least 6 hours daily, unless you are looking at vegetables, in which case aim for closer to 10 hours.
Partial sunlight plants can thrive for 4 to 6 hours and full shade plants like around 3 hours or less.
The beauty of a container garden is that, depending on the size, you can simply move your garden around as needed. You could provide mobility in larger containers by placing rollers underneath the pot, so you can then roll it into the desired location.
Things To Know About Your Container
For containers for your container garden, not all are equal. Wood and plastic are the best options for creating a beautiful container garden. When you are looking at wooden containers, I highly recommend looking for one made from redwood or cedar trees, as they will last the longest.
Also, metal containers are more likely to rust, so if you’re set on that style, perhaps look to line that container with a plastic one to keep it looking sparkly for years to come.
You also want to look for a container with adequate drainage. A good rule of thumb to follow is having one drainage hole for every one inch of material along the bottom of your container. If you feel your container is lacking, you can definitely drill additional holes in as needed.
2. Start By Filling Your Container
Once you have everything figured out, it’s time to gather your supplies. To prepare your container for the plants, line the pot with the landscaping fabric. This will keep the soil in your container, the bugs out of your container, and allow the water to drain as needed.
Once you have your screen put in, you can fill in your soil until you have about 2 inches remaining at the top of your container.
For soil, definitely do not just use the soil you have available in your yard. A container garden needs different requirements of the soil and that’s why you should use potting soil. You can make your own, you can check out DIY potting soil: 6 Homemade potting mix recipes for the home and garden from Savvy Gardening for a host of recipes!
At this stage, mix in your fertilizer as well, following the directions on your fertilizer container. Too much fertilizer can burn plants, so you’ll want to be careful here. One quick tip to prevent over fertilizing is to buy time-release or granular fertilizer, as it will gradually release into the soil.
3. It’s Planting Time!
Once your container has some dirt, it’s time to get your plants and place them in their new home. One trick is to place your nursery plants on the soil and arrange them until you have them set up in the spots you like.
Once you’ve got them where you like them, it’s time to dig holes roughly the size of the nursery pot. Next, remove the plant gently from its nursery pot and if necessary gently stretch out the root ball before placing the plant into the hole, filling in the soil around the root, but avoiding filling in the stem.
Place “thriller” plants in the center or the back of your container. “Fillers” can go around the thriller plant (ensure you leave enough room for the plants to mature and grow) and the “spillers” do best along the edges of your container.
4. Care For Your Container Garden
Proper watering and feeding are probably the most key items to ensure your container garden thrives for the whole growing season.
The key to ensuring adequate water is to check the soil moisture regularly. If the top inch of soil feels dry, it’s time to sprinkle some water on. Water until you see it flow out a bit on the bottom of your container.
Continue to apply regular fertilizer to your plants as well, but be careful to follow the package instructions for the brand that you have as you don’t want to burn your plants!
A container garden is a fun and rewarding activity that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their experience level. With some time and effort, you can create a beautiful and thriving garden on your balcony or patio.
By following the simple steps outlined above, you can ensure that you place your plants in the right spots and receive the care and attention they need to grow and thrive. Whether it’s vegetables, herbs or a spectacular floral arrangement, you can have the container garden of your dreams easily!
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Until next time, stay crafty, my friends!!