If you’re an apartment dweller or have limited yard space, there’s still a way to flex your green thumb: container gardening. Cherry tomatoes draped from hanging baskets, herbs, morning glories and vegetables can thrive in flower pots. And even if you do have space for a vegetable garden, “there's always the possibility of adding a few more pots,” says Stori Snyder, assistant director of the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center at Indiana University Bloomington. She offers the following tips:
Preparing the Containers
Containers need holes at the bottom for drainage and some rocks for the plant roots to wrap around. The roots “don't want to have ‘wet feet,’ so to speak,” she says. Containers should be at least one size larger than the purchased pot size.
Feeding the Soil
More plants can be grown in a small space if the soil has been enriched with manure, compost or humus. You can buy a kit to test soil its composition to see if it needs more nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium, which are important nutrients for plants. It’s practically “a given,” Snyder says, that soil will need compost or manure after subsequent plantings because plants always remove nitrogen from dirt. One way to improve the soil is to add a scoop of compost in a hole when burying a plant. Feed the plants again at least once during the summer with a sprinkling of compost or compost tea, where a compost powder is mixed with water.
Consider planting native varieties because they handle a region's climate better. Local nurseries and county extension services can offer guidance. Some herbs, such as mints, sage and thyme, are hardier than others and grow back in the spring.