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Sometimes, the only thing preventing us moving toward independence and self-sufficiency is our doubts. Growing a garden is one area where our thoughts can be a bigger obstacle than any of the real obstacles involved in starting a garden. “I can’t have a garden, my yard is to small” and “I can’t have a garden, I live in an apartment” are examples of thoughts that may prevent you from growing your own food.
Let’s clear one thing up: A garden is a collection of soil and plants that is tended for a particular purpose. That can be an acre of land crowded with rows of food crops, or it can be a two by three foot section in the non-path decorative garden zone next to your apartment’s front door. It can even be a few judiciously chosen live herbs lining an apartment windowsill.
Whether the plant is decorative, herbal, or food, if you have plants then you have a garden. And the best type of garden for people with little space is a container garden. Here are 11 reasons you should consider starting one.
1. It’s Easy For Beginners – With a container garden, you can start small–a few herbs, a few strawberry plants, maybe some plants you rooted from food scraps. You can keep a close eye on growth, on how the plants react to certain windows and light levels, and you can harvest at will. Tilling ground is a huge endeavor, but pouring potting soil into a pot and sticking some seeds in it is easy.
2. It’s Easy to Experiment – Not sure if a plant will thrive in your zone? Want to try a tropical banana, ginger, or other exotic plant? A container garden is the perfect excuse to do so. It’s small, observable, and portable so you can keep your plant in optimized growing conditions. Not to mention, container gardening is really fun.
3. Plant Diseases Won’t Spread – Many plants can end up with diseases if they’re grown in the same soil for more than one year. One of the benefits of container gardening is that you can completely change the soil and wash the containers every year. This prevents various soil related diseases, fungus, and pests from proliferating.
4. You’ll Have Fewer Pests – In the garden, you have to think of everything. Voles love garlic, birds love strawberries, and slugs love anything they can get. With a container garden you can easily protect it from birds. Voles and moles can’t get into your potato bag or garlic planter, and it’s way easier to protect against slugs if the planter is on a patio near the lawn.
Some pests, however, are worse in a container garden, specifically spider mites and whitefly. These nearly microscopic pests feed on plant juices and can give your plants a severe case of failure to thrive syndrome. The benefit of a container garden with these pests is simple: you can put your plant in the sink and wash all the leaves off to get rid of the pests. Indoor containers also make it simple to keep an eye on washed plants to make sure the infestation doesn’t come back.
5. The Containers are Portable – Have a sun-loving plant but nowhere in your apartment with sun all day long? A container garden makes it easy to move the sun-loving plants from window to window. Add a wheeled trolley and it’ll only take a few seconds to move them around. Also, if you live in an area with cold nights, using a container garden set-up will let you grow warmer weather plants like figs or ginger, and move them indoors at night to be protected from frost.
6. It Lengthens Your Growing Season – Most plants are best fresh. With a container garden, you can extend your growing season for herbs, some vegetables, and warm-climate plants just by moving the containers indoors during the winter. Using the containers, you can even force bulbs and grow flowers before spring even begins.
7. Container Gardening is Versatile – Just because you used one container for peas doesn’t mean it always has to be used for peas. If you have empty containers sitting around during the winter, take a break and grow some micro-greens, baby-greens, or other quick finishing crop. When spring comes around, all you have to do is change the soil, plant new seed, and you’ll be off to the races. If one crop didn’t work well in a certain container, try a different kind of container the next year.
8. It Takes Very Little Equipment – If you have pots, soil, seeds, and a way to water them, you have everything you need to start a container garden. Sometimes you may want to use starts instead of seeds, like for a hanging basket (which looks awesome with strawberries), or tomatoes. This will slightly decrease the time from planting to crop maturity, but if you want to start your own seed, it’s just as easy. For fully indoor growing, a full-spectrum grow light is necessary for best results. Keep it within 6 inches of the top of the growing plant to encourage compact growth.
9. You Can Start at ANY Size – If you want to start a container garden, all you need is one container and one plant. Not sure if you can garden? Start with a small herb like thyme or sage, or plant a few fresh citrus seeds to see what happens. When you feel more confident, find seeds that fit your growing conditions, add a basic organic potting soil and basic plastic pots, and you’ll be all set. Remember, just because you can spend a lot on your container garden does not mean you have to.
10. It’s Easier On The Back – Normal gardening, unless placed into raised beds, can cause a lot of back pain. With containers, you can put the containers in position before filling them with dirt and plants. Small pots are easily shifted around, and pots on a wheeled trolley are especially easy to move.
11. No Weeds! For a container garden, you will largely be using sterile potting soil. This means no weed seeds, and that means no weeding! This is a huge advantage because keeping weeds at bay can take hours.
If you were hesitant about starting a garden in your small backyard or apartment, hopefully this article changed your mind. Gardening takes work and practice, but at harvest time it can be very satisfying.