Container Gardens: An Easy Way to Bring Nature Closer to Home

APRIL 27TH, 2017

We wait all winter for trees and foliage to turn green again, and it’s not enough to look at them from afar out your window. With a few containers and a little love, you can create an apartment garden right outside your patio door where it can be part of your view all summer long. Here’s how:

1. Study your light:

Pay attention to the way light moves across your patio for a few days. Sun-loving plants need at least six hours of direct sun every day. If you don’t have it (and many apartment garden balconies don’t), consult this list for container plants that thrive on less. If you do, this one gives you suggestions for plants to use on a sunny patio. If you’re building a kitchen garden, use this list for the best container vegetables.

2. Assemble the containers:

You can use almost anything as a plant pot for your apartment garden as long as it has good drainage and is large. Healthy (and therefore beautiful) plants grow from healthy roots that have room to spread out. Small pots are like tight shoes, and will stunt the plants’ growth.

3. Be picky shopping for plants:

Don’t be seduced by big flowers or lots of fruit on the plants at the garden center. Instead, look for upright, sturdy stems and plants with the densest foliage. Flowers come and go, and healthy plants will produce plenty through the summer for your apartment garden.

4. Curate your containers:

You don’t need to be a florist to create beautiful ornamental pots for your apartment garden. A simple pattern does the trick: thrill, fill, and spill. Something tall at the center or back of your container is the thrill. For the fill, surround it with full, bushy plants. The spill, as you may have figured out by now, is trailing foliage that spills over the edge of the pot. In your ornamental pots, fit your plants tightly. Fruiting plants, such as tomatoes, beans, and peas, need room to spread out. You can crowd herbs or flowers around their feet, but give them plenty of room up top.

5. You’re ready to plant:

Make sure the soil you buy is clearly labeled as potting soil, not garden soil. Potting soil is designed to retain moisture, resist packing down, drain well, make it easy for roots to grow and receive nutrients. Put soil into your containers to a point a little below the top, and don’t pack it down. Pull the root balls apart a little in your transplants, then put them in holes you dug with your fingers. They’re tough—no need to treat them as if they’re fragile. A little more potting soil around the stems will then secure them upright.

6. Tend your apartment garden:

Containers need a lot of water, especially during hot weather, when you should expect to water every day. Add water until you see it flowing out the bottom. Even though your potting soil probably says that it includes fertilizer, your apartment garden will reward you with lots of foliage and flowers if you add diluted liquid fertilizer to each watering. Pinch or snip off faded flowers to encourage new blooms. If a plant gets spindly and spent, pull it out and replace it. Another four-pack of annuals is inexpensive.

With a few beautiful containers and a little love, your apartment garden will keep the beauty of nature at your door all summer long.

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