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Sustainable Horticulture

Container Gardening: A Great Solution for Small Gardening Spaces

If you are a garden lover, but have no space for your gardening appetite, don’t worry - gardening is not necessarily out of your reach. Even small spaces, such as balconies, decks, and windowsills, can support container gardens. Container gardens can include flowers, ornamental grasses, vegetables, and even small trees. They bring great joy and allow even apartment dwellers to have dream gardens.

In the past, gardening was exclusively for people who owned land. Nowadays, everyone can have a garden, whether they have a windowsill or a 20-acre spread to work with. These gardens can be grown in containers - ranging from one gallon clay pots to hanging baskets to containers large enough to support small shrubs or trees. You can experience the joys of gardening without the hassle of weekly mowing or weeding acres of flower beds.

Just like traditional gardening, container gardening requires proper planning. You must consider space, light levels, availability of water, and weather. Limited root space may put additional constraints on your plant choices. Containers may have to be brought into a garage or other protected area to keep them from freezing. Particularly tender plants may not do well in containers, as they are more exposed to cold temperatures and wind than more traditional gardens. Knowing your USDA zone will help you identify suitable plants for your garden.

You can plant bulbs, seeds, or plants in your containers. Many gardeners layer bulbs underneath other plants to provide year-round interest in their containers. You can experiment with different plant combinations to get the most use of your containers. For instance, consider planting bulbs for spring flowering, veggies or herbs for summer and fall food, and pansies or other fall or winter-blooming flowers. Nearly any plant can be grown in a container (size is the main limitation), so get out and experiment!

Container gardening is relatively inexpensive. There is an initial investment in containers and soil, and a periodic investment in plants. Containers range in size, material, and price, with something available for every budget. Potting soil works better than gardening soil, which is too heavy for most containers. Depending on the plants you use, you may have to replace the soil periodically - annuals and veggies deplete nutrients, so soil must be replaced more frequently. Due to the limited soil environment, you may have to fertilize container gardens more than regular gardens. Be sure to test your soil first and ensure that you apply only deficient nutrients.

Don't have a balcony or patio to put containers on? Don't despair - add a window box instead! These containers, which are growing in popularity, are easy to install. They can be used to grow cheery flowers, ornamental vegetation, or even herbs for a kitchen garden.

Not sure what to plant in your containers or how to care for them? There are a variety of resources available - books, websites, and your local extension office. The Master Gardener program, which operates in many states, is another great source of information. You can also volunteer with your local parks department, arboretum, or botanic garden. Not only will you be helping the environment, you'll also meet other garden lovers who will be happy to share their tips and tricks. Start experimenting and have fun developing your container garden!

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