Patio Garden Tips

Patio Gardening in Containers

Patio gardens might be your sole garden if you have limited space or lack a yard, but that doesn’t mean you have to forgo a beautiful garden of flowers or vegetables. Usually, patio gardens mean growing plants in containers. There are a few differences between backyard gardening and container gardening, but following these general tips will help you grow anything you want in containers on your patio. Soil, sun and water are still the main concern, as with any garden. Place most container plants in a sunny location, unless they are specifically shade-tolerant plants.

Be sure they are potted or planted in loose, rich soil. Regular garden soil is too dense and heavy for potting; it should be loosened and lightened with mulch, peat moss or vermiculite when used in container planting. The containers you choose need to have good drainage, so that water doesn’t get trapped around the plant roots. Fit the container to the expected size of the plant, and expect to water and fertilize more often than in a traditional garden. This is because the water will not only run out the bottom of the containers faster but also evaporate faster, taking fertilizer with it.

Watering a Patio Garden

You will need to plan your patio garden with attention to nearby water sources. Is there an outdoor spigot or hose handy, or will you need to carry water from inside the house? Have a plan ready for watering, especially if you are planning to grow a fairly large patio garden. Since soil in containers dries out more quickly than it would in a regular garden, plan on watering daily in hot weather, and every few days in cooler weather. If you’re not sure, test the soil with a finger. If it doesn’t cling to your finger, you should water.

Since patio gardens require more water than a traditional garden, you may want to consider using water-conserving measures to keep your water usage down. One popular way to do this is to create a rain barrel in your yard or garden. Attaching a downspout to your roof gutter system that directs rainwater into the barrel will help you make the best use of rainfall. Be sure any rain barrel you use has a filter that water must pass through before reaching your garden, to keep out foreign objects, unwanted chemicals and dirt or debris.

Another option is to collect “gray” water from your household. This is water that ordinarily gets wasted through normal household processes, or is slightly used but not dirty. For instance, the first few gallons of water that come out of the shower or bath faucet before the water temperature warms up often just go down the drain. Collecting the colder water in a multi-gallon bucket and using that on your container plants or patio garden is more than likely all the water you need to use on your garden that day. If time is a concern, you can try self-watering containers, or for larger planters, irrigation systems like soaker or drip hoses can be a blessing.

Patio Garden Pests

While pests and insects may not have the same access to your plants on a patio as they would in a garden, that doesn’t mean you can let down your guard completely. They will still be found in patio gardens. Check plants regularly for bugs and signs of disease. Another benefit of patio gardening is that it’s easier to check for pests and insects, as the plants are easily movable in their containers, and are more often at eye level. If you do find any pests, separate the plant from the rest of your patio garden, so it can’t spread to other plants, and pick or wash bugs off as soon as you can.

Avoid mildew and many other diseases and pests by being careful not to water the foliage of the plants, only the soil, and ensuring your containers are well-drained. The one drawback you may find with having plants on your patio is that you may attract birds, bees and other pollinators to your back door. If you want to keep these off your patio, try to avoid choosing plants that are very attractive to insects and birds, such as berries, brightly colored flowers, and plants that produce nectar.

Patio Garden Options

Patio gardens have several benefits to gardeners, even those who have the room to grow a traditional garden. If your backyard soil is poor, rocky, or overrun with nematodes, moles or other pests, a patio garden offers a new start with fresh soil. Another option is to use patio gardening as a cosmetic addition to your home landscaping. For instance, you could create a trellis covered in plants on your patio to screen an unattractive air conditioning unit on the side of your house. Or, place several tall containers of plants on your patio surrounding or concealing ugly patio features like broken stones, discolored bricks, or columns, fences and railings that seem out of place aesthetically.

The great versatility of container gardening on your patio is that you can have the containers be whatever you like, to match your home, patio, furniture or landscaping style. Wooden barrels, bushel or wire mesh baskets lined with moss, Mediterranean clay pots, inexpensive colorful plastic planters, or sleek modern metal bins all can house successful patio garden elements. Just make sure whatever you choose provides good drainage, with holes in the bottom and a layer of a loose draining medium like pebbles or gravel in the bottom of the container.

Here is a great video with more patio garden tips:

Want to learn more about patio gardening?

Check out these sites for more information.

Check out these container gardening basics.

Texas A&M University’s horticulture department talks about growing vegetables on a patio.

Mother Earth News explores how to garden organically on patios with containers.

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