Grow Your Own: How to Start Container Gardening

Did you know that fresh produce loses vital nutrients every second it’s off the stalk? Here’s an easy fix: grow your own veggie patch! This will ensure, you’re getting the healthiest food possible!

No yard is required. In fact, any outdoor space will suffice, even a sunny window will work. Simply follow the plan below and you’ll be munching on delicious homegrown veggies just in the nick of time for summer.

Just like any successful project, a bountiful container garden starts with planning.

First Part of the Plan: Identify Your Frost Dates

Learn your frost dates! Do research to uncover when the last expected frost is, according to your geographic location or zip code. This will tell you the best time to plant most of your summer veggies. There are plenty of great websites out there to help you get started!

Tip: Do you live in a cooler climate and have a shorter growing season? Think about some of the cooler weather crops like peas, kale, spinach, lettuces and Brussels sprouts.

Second Part of the Plan: Assess Your Space and Learn the Rules

It’s important to take a good long look at your growing space. Does it get the minimum requirement of six hours of sun during the day? How are you going to get water to your garden? How many pots do you have room for?

And while you’re evaluating your space, make sure to consult your homeowner’s association or landlord’s rules on outdoor gardens. If you aren’t allowed to grow outside (or don’t have the space), herbs, some lettuces and even a few smaller tomato varieties grow beautifully in pots in a sunny window.

Third Part of Plan: Figure Out What You Want to Eat

If this is your first time gardening, you’ll want to start small, but you’ll also want to start with varieties that’ll be fun for you to grow and fun for your family to eat. Don’t love tomatoes? Don’t grow tomatoes! Remember, this is your garden and you’ll be putting the effort into tending to it, so make sure the rewards excite you.

While you’re thinking about the types of produce, also think about how you’re going to grow it. Be creative! Use hanging baskets for cherry tomatoes, window boxes for spinach, and flower pots for zucchini.

Tip: Remember that your full-grown plants are going to be pretty large. Are you okay with turning your outdoor space into a jungle for the summer? Or would you prefer to have some space for entertaining? Are there other elements you need to have space for (a grill, chairs, etc.)? Are the containers you’re using big enough to support the plant once it’s fully grown? Make sure to think ahead.

Fourth Part of Plan: Get Your Plants and Plant Your Garden

Now that you know your frost date (you do, right?) and it’s around that date, it’s time to plant! For first-time gardeners, I recommend heading out to your local garden center and picking out ready-to-go veggie plants. Big box stores work, but to get the most information about what grows well in your area, try to seek out a local garden center. While you’re at the store, make sure to grab enough vegetable potting mix to fill up your containers.

Once you get home, plant! Planting is probably the simplest part of the whole process. In the bottom of your container, cover the drainage hole with a few rocks, pieces of broken pottery or styrofoam (to protect the hole from getting clogged), fill it with the potting mix and then just follow the directions for spacing and depth on the plant tag, water once done and let your little babies grow.

Tip: When searching through the plants in the store, keep an eye out for “bush” or “dwarf” varieties. They are bred specifically to stay compact while still producing lots of veggies. Also, add your compost, if you have it.

Fifth Part of Plan: Don’t Forget to Tend to Your Plants

Resources:

What is your ultimate veggie or fruit to plant at home?

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Cassie Johnston is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer living and working in Southern Indiana. Her work has been feature in national publications such as Gourmet Magazine and The Huffington Post. Cassie’s a big fan of strenuous hikes, cheese, watching sports, Brussels sprouts, and craft beer, and she’ll talk your ear off about her love of local food and seasonal eating. She’s obsessed with social media and loves connecting with new friends!