Container gardening is a highly effective way to grow your vegetables. And it's growing in popularity. This is especially the case in urban areas where space is at a premium. It's a perfect option for tenants who don't own their own land but want to grow food. As a renter, you can't take an in-ground garden with you when you move. In fact, you may not even have a single square foot of yard. But with containers, people are using decks, patios, walkways or even rooftops!
Benefits of Container Gardening:
PORTABILITY: Renters don't have to relinquish their garden when they move. In fact, even a home owner stands to benefit from the mobility offered by a potted garden. What if you find that sunlight levels are too intense or too shaded? You can easily move your plants to a more suited location.
If your plants get too crowded, you can space the containers further apart for optimal lighting. This is great when you're first starting out and you're not experienced with ideal plant spacing.
SOIL CONSERVATION: A plant with an 18" canopy might be grown in an 8" pot. Compared to a raised bed, you can cover a larger area with plants while requiring much less growing medium. It's relatively easy to throw some bags of potting mix into your trunk and you're quickly under way. An easy way to start out small.
FLEXIBILITY: No soil? No problem! You can place pots on decks, driveways or patios. In fact, pots can allow temperate growers to enjoy tropical trees or cold sensitive herbs. Rosemary and lemon trees can be brought in during the winter, and thereby maintained for years!
DISEASE CONTROL: A soil borne infection is limited to a single pot, rather than an entire plot. With multiple containers, you can alternate the plants grown in each container from season to season. This makes crop rotation easy to do on a small scale.
PEST CONTROL: Pots discourage snails and borrowing pests like voles or other rodents. Also, since they are up off of the ground it is easy to keep rabbits away!
Video: Urban Gardening Tips for Renters:
Self-Watering Containers / Rooftop Terraces / Community Gardens
Tips for Success:
CONTAINER MATERIAL: A porous material like terracotta or ceramic is going to dry out quicker than a plastic pot. If you like the look of a terracotta, you could always place a plastic pot inside of it.
CONTAINER SIZE: A larger container will increase your potting mix requirements & costs. But the benefit is the ability to support more or larger plants. Nutrients will not be depleted as quickly. Moisture levels will not fluctuate as much and you won't have to water as often.
POTTING MIX: Note: we are talking about potting mix. Do not use garden soil or top soil. You do not want the soil to quickly compact. Instead, look for a mix that is light, porous & water retentive. In may contain peat moss, wood bark and/or coir (coco). It will have perlite in it too.
Avoid using clay, sand or compost (vermi-compost is ok). Some people have successfully grown in compost / sand mixes. But a sand based mix makes for a heavier container. And compost itself comes with a broad range of components and physical characteristics. I don't suggest taking such an approach until you've gained some experience and you are generating your own personal supply of compost.
DRAIN HOLES: Your container is going to be outside. You cannot control how much rain falls. So you MUST have drain holes in your container. Add them if they aren't there. No drainage, means no air. Roots get water logged & they soon die. So does your young urban garden...
Of course, container gardening has its drawbacks. The biggest downfall is the increased need for watering. In your pot, you need good drainage, but you also need to have good moisture retention. See the WATER page for ideas. Creating a sub-irrigated, self-watering system is really the best option you could hope for. Let's look at the soil structure and actual construction of such a system.