Finding the Perfect Container Garden

The snow finally melted off the Little Acre Garden Bag this week and things are looking kinda shabby. 3 long growing seasons and withstanding the extreme sun/temperature fluctuations of our patio are about all we could ask for from one patch of soil. It’s time to start finding the perfect container garden.

When we bought the Little Acre it was our first summer in the town house and we were eager to get anything to grow. By mid-summer we’d created what Greg and I now affectionately call the crazy vegetable bush:
Little Acre Garden Bag

Container Garden Lessons

Although it looks green and healthy here, the plants were so crowded and overgrown they never really produced substantial fruit. By the end of the summer the angle of the sun was so intense the sensitive, cooler-weather crops shriveled up and turned brown. Boy have we learned a bunch since then…

The next two summers we did more research into intensive gardening and heat tolerant, container-sized varieties. We also realized we used our lettuces, herbs and tomatoes faster if they were close to the kitchen while our peppers, beans and cucumbers were okay a few blocks away at the community garden.

Water. Water. Water. And then Water Some More

Biggest lesson of container gardens: Water. Water. Water. And when you think you’ve watered them enough, water them again. Unlike a typical garden, the soil in container gardens is exposed to heat from all sides. This increases the speed that moisture evaporates and increases the root temperature of sensitive plants. Two summers in a row we came back from week-long camping trips only to find our hard work scorched and powder dry.

LIttle Acre Garden Bag -Spring 2012

Questions to Ask When Buying Containers

Now that we’re ready to shop for a new container garden system on the patio, we created a list of questions and criteria to make sure we buy the best fit for what we need:

How much space do you have? Containers come in every shape, size and color including planters that hang, planters on wheels, or wooden, pottery and plastic bag-style planters.  You can even buy ones that glow in the dark. Identifying the best space you have to grow in will help you better plan the containers that fit on your patio or porch. Check out Pinterest for the biggest selection of ideas on small space container gardens.

How much space can the planter hold? Will it be big enough to hold a pepper-sized plant or sturdy enough for several tomatoes or vines? Knowing exactly what you want to plant and how much space you’ll need prevents overgrown “crazy vegetable bushes.”

What are the set-up costs? Be sure to calculate the cost of the planter system AND the cost of soil. Some containers are extra deep to hold more moisture and better support root crops like potatoes and carrots. That also means buying more potting soil up front.

Are the containers transportable or relatively permanent when set up? Containers than can be more easily moved out in and out of the sun can better protect plants from scorching temps.

How easy will watering and drainage be? Although it’s not essential, some container garden systems now have built-in hose hook up or self-watering pans to keep plants healthy all summer long. Likewise, check for containers that have drainage holes to prevent waterlogged pots.

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