I grew up with a garden – really just a giant sized kitchen garden – full of veggies, herbs and flowers. Every spring, I would watch my Dad till the soil, the my sister and I would follow behind and pick out the rocks. Then we would go to the garden center to pick out seeds and seedlings. After we carefully planted everything, I loved watching each little sprout grow!
Now that we move every three years and are kind of limited in space, my garden has shrunk considerably. Base and rental houses are not exactly excited about having full-on veggie gardens, tilled soil and all.
Grow a Container Garden No Matter Where You’re Planted
So for the last decade or so, I’ve been creating mini container gardens at each of my homes. Now, I’m certainly no expert, but my potted plants have done pretty well so far.
Start Small & Hardy
Whether you grew up around veggie patches or are just starting to dig in the dirt, it’s important to start small. Like really small, as in just one plant.
Pick something hardy and easy to care for with a proven track record of success. If you’re not sure, consult with an expert at a local gardening center or nursery. Shopping small and hyper-local instead of hitting the big box stores is definitely the right move in this situation.
Sometimes, starting with an herb like rosemary or mint is the right move. Both are super sturdy and do well in many environments, including drier climates and sub-tropical zones. I’ve successfully cultivated thriving rosemary plants in both of these locations!
Pick the Right Pots & Soil
Not every plant grows in the same soil or needs the same kinds of pots and containers. Each type of plant needs a different amount of space above the ground, plus depth and room to spread out their roots.
Before you stick your new plants into just any old pots, do a little research into what they need. Ask that local garden expert what your new sprout needs. Keep in mind that you might need to swap out pots as your plant grows up, too.
Just like pots and containers, each plant needs a specific type of soil. Dirt has different pH levels and nutrient contents. Plants will respond to some soil better than others.
For example, my Mom tried to grow hydrangeas for years and years. Every spring, they would grow beautiful, lush leaves but never even bud or blossom. Turns out, the soil was way too acidic and well irrigated for the bushes to fully develop. Once she added in a different fertilizer, she’s had amazing giant flowers every year!
Be Realistic About the Work
Plants take work and space, some more than others. Before you commit to growing pumpkins and tomatoes, know what you’re getting into first.
Every garden needs to be watered and weeded, but there are ways to make that simpler. Drip irrigation systems can help make watering more hands-off. Plus, there are ways to set up your garden, like the square foot method, to maximize space and cut down on weeds.
Setting up a schedule to delegate plant tending duties can be super helpful. It also helps you to keep track of watering and weeding to make sure that you don’t over tend your pots.
Plant within Your Space Limits
You also need to consider your space limitations. Vine-type plants, like pumpkins and cukes, need a good bit of space. Not super ideal if all you’ve got is a 4×4 raised bed.
But there are ways to grow lots of plants in small spaces, like training vine plants with lighter veggies or fruits up a trellis or using another vertical gardening technique.
Co-planting techniques, like the infamous Three Sisters (beans, squash, corn), can greatly maximize your space and increase your output.
Grow What You Like
Pick veggies, herbs and flowers you actually enjoy. If you don’t love tomatoes, don’t plant them!
I love roses and try to find a way to plant at least one rosebush at every single one of our houses. In fact, my original rose garden is still blooming in base housing at Camp Pendleton! My Okinawan roses are about to be passed down to a neighbor.
I also always grow rosemary and basil, plus other herbs that might be harder to find. In Okinawa, whole leaf sage is really limited. So I grew my own! Those leaves sure made my Thanksgiving turkey super tasty!
Whether you’re aiming for a colorful plot full of blooms or an ultra-productive veggie patch, follow your heart and what you can honestly handle! Sticking to these guidelines, plus consulting with a local gardening center, can help you have a positive container gardening experience.