Patio Gardening in Containers

If you find yourself wanting to experience the joys of gardening but think that you don’t have enough room because you don’t have a real yard, you should consider container patio gardening. It allows you to make use of the space that you do have to create a small mini-garden full of nutritious herbs, vegetables, and fruit along with a bevy of colorful flowers.

Choosing Patio Garden Containers

One of the most important considerations during your planning stages is determining the type of containers that you are going to use for your container patio garden. Since you can select almost any size container in almost any shape and made out of almost any material for your patio garden, you have lots of options. It is important to consider a few points regarding how much time you want to spend in the garden, whether you want to create a theme for your garden, and how large of a container patio garden you want to create.

Choosing Container Sizes

The size of the container that you select is going to depend on two main facets ― what type of plant are you growing in the container and the location where the container is going to be placed. You need to select a container that is going to be large enough to hold a growing plant while being the proper size to fit in the spot that you need to place it.

Containers with a five-gallon capacity are going to be the most useful for your gardening needs as far as most vegetables are concerned. Smaller containers in the one to two gallon range are best used for herbs, leaf lettuce, and radishes. You want to select a container that is going to be roomy enough to allow your plants to grow properly without being so large that they appear out of place. For roomy areas of your patio garden, you can select wooden half barrels, plastic tubs, bushel baskets, large drums, planter boxes, and ceramic pots.

Some of your vegetables need deep containers to grow properly while other varieties can make do with a shallow container. For example, radishes and green onions can grow nicely in a shallow container whereas carrots and potatoes do best when growing in containers that are deep.

Choosing Porous versus Nonporous Containers

Another consideration that you must think about is whether or not you want to use porous or nonporous containers. Nonporous containers are going to retain moisture better than porous ones. If your patio takes in a lot of sun, this is an important consideration for you. Either way, you need to provide adequate drainage for your containers. If they do not have drainage holes set into them, you need to make them. For the best results, place a few drainage holes about ¼ to ½ inch above the container’s bottom on the sides of the container so that it can drain freely when necessary. Adding a proper lining of gravel or coarse pebbles in the bottom of the container is also beneficial to the plants.

Types of Patio Garden Containers

Wood planters are sold in cedar, teak, and redwood. Each of these woods is durable, rot-resistant, and long-lasting. Offering a natural color, wooden planters blend well in most gardens. Wooden trellises can easily be combined with wooden planters to create a space for vertical planting. The use of plastic liners and drainage holes will extend the life of your wooden planters. You can treat your planters with a waterproofing agent, paint, or a non-toxic stain to extend their life.

Terracotta pots are sold in true terracotta as well as faux terracotta. Terracotta planters are porous so they dry out faster increasing the need to water your plants more frequently. Try to purchase terracotta pots that are thicker to minimize chipping and cracking. Since terracotta planters are among the heavier ones, they withstand windy conditions quite well. Their warm, earthy tones blend well in most gardens.

Ceramic planters include a wide variety of earthenware, stoneware, and glazed planters. Since ceramic planters are nonporous, they tend to retain moisture longer minimizing your watering needs. If your patio containers are going to be exposed to low temperatures, you should look for ceramic planters that have been labeled as frost or freezing resistant. Since ceramic planters are sold in an attractive assortment of colors, using them for your plants is a great way to add extra color or blend a theme in your garden.

Concrete planters are more traditional in style. They are also heavier and more difficult to move around, so you might want to consider your purchase carefully. However, this makes them a great choice for patio gardens that are exposed to windy conditions. If you decide to use concrete planters, you need to seal them to minimize damage due to weather and soil. Of course, you can always purchase faux concrete planters and avoid the need to use any treatments to protect the planters. Fiberglass, fiberstone, and resin planters are easy-to-care-for making them an easy choice for the patio gardener with limited time.

Stone planters offer the same traditional look as concrete planters, and are just as heavy if they are made from natural stone. Faux stone and fiberstone styles are not as heavy as true stone or concrete and so they make more sense for patios that are suspended into the air such as those found attached to apartments and condos. If your patio garden is located in an area where heavy winds are going to occur, choose heavier planters that can handle the wind.

Although wall planters are attractive and can be used to save valuable ground-level space, your use of them is going to be limited to whatever walls are present in the patio area. Since these walls typically include windows and a door, you need to make your selection carefully with size and style in mind so that your wall planter looks good wherever you position it without looking out of place. Wall planters are sold in an assortment of styles and materials including cast iron, wrought iron, wood, and terracotta.

Metal planters are attractive, shiny, and stylish. This type of planter is perfect for lounging patios or those on which you intend to do quite a bit of entertaining. Metal planters are sold in copper, wrought iron, zinc, and stainless steel. They hold up well to the elements of weather and require little care. They can also be used as “cache” pots, which means that they hold a smaller planter that is often less attractive. This avoids the need to fill the metal planter with soil.

Self-watering planters are perfect for the gardener who has limited time to spend tending to his garden. Even though you must supply the water occasionally, you need to do so far less frequently than you would when watering plants. Self-watering planters are perfect for those hard-to-reach areas of a container patio garden. This style of container is a bit more expensive, but the convenience you get is well worth the price. You can find an attractive assortment of styles including hanging baskets and terrazzo models.

Window boxes can be used to add a touch of color to your apartment or house walls while also giving you added space for gardening. Window boxes are sold in different sizes, styles, and materials. Wrought iron, fiberglass, hayrack, and wrought iron are among the most popular materials used to craft window boxes.

Garden urns are sold in a wide variety of materials including stone, concrete, resin, and terracotta. They offer a decorative way to showcase your favorite plants, placing them well above the ground.

A growing market of unique planters features some clever designs. If you are planning your container patio garden with a contemporary look, you might want to include uniquely designed planters that portray modern themes, shapes such as mailboxes, and split pots.

Growing Vegetables in Containers on the Patio Garden

Although just about any vegetable that you can grow in a traditional garden can be grown in a container patio garden within reason, it is important to consider just how much space you have when you select your plants so that you can choose wisely.

You should stay away from vining plants unless you intend to use vertical gardening strategies. A trellis, fence, or vegetable cage can be used to support your vining plants so they grow above the container rather than trailing over it. Vining vegetables that you might want to consider since they typically produce bountiful crops include: cucumbers and pole beans. You’ll want to plant such varieties near any fences or walls in order to keep your garden looking neat and attractive.

Vegetables that are well-suited for container gardening include: tomatoes, peppers, leaf lettuce, squash, beans, green onions, mini-carrots, and radishes. It is important to consider the type of vegetable that you are planting when you select your containers. The following chart provides a handy guide with suggested container size for various vegetables.

Vegetable # of Plants Container Size Suggested Varieties
Broccoli 1 plant 2 gallons Bonanza, Packman, any
Carrot 2-3 plants 1 gallon Baby Spike, Little Finger, Scarlet Nantes
Cucumber 1 plant 1 gallon Burpless, Crispy, Early Pick, Liberty, Salty
Beans 2-3 plants 2 gallons Blue Lake, Contender, Kentucky Wonder
Onions 3-5 plants 1 gallon Evergreen Bunching, Beltsville Bunching
Leaf Lettuce 2 plants 1 gallon Buttercrunch, Romaine, Bibb, Ruby
Pepper 1-2 plants 5 gallons Jalapeno, Keystone Resistant
Radish 3-5 plants 1 gallon Scarlet Globe
Tomato 1 plant 5 gallons Patio, Toy Boy, Saladette

Growing Herbs in Containers on the Patio Garden

Selecting the herbs that you are going to plant depends on how you intend to use them. If you intend to use herbs to sustain your kitchen’s cooking needs, then you should plant them where they are readily accessible such as closest to the door. The easier it is to harvest your herbs, the more likely it is that you will use them regularly.

Most herbs require a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of sunlight each day. Container-grown herbs accommodate any size patio. Edible herb container gardens are those that include a variety of herbs for use in salads, cooking, and teas. It is one of the most popular garden designs. Planting an herb garden according to a theme is popular. The idea is to plant herbs that accommodate your style of cooking.

One example is to grow an Italian herb garden that includes oregano, basil, rosemary, and parsley. An Asian herb garden includes lemon grass and cilantro. A French herb garden includes thyme, tarragon, marjoram, chervil, and fennel. A Mexican herb garden consists of lemon verbena, spearmint, sweet basil, and bay.

Growing Flowers in Containers on the Patio Garden

Flowers are the perfect addition to any container patio garden. Not only do they add a nice touch of color, but they also provide sweet fragrances. Just imagine a bevy of lush foliage and bright blossoms cascading over your patio containers

One of your most important considerations is to select the proper container for the type of flowers that you plant. For example, trailing flowers should be planted in hanging baskets. Next, you need to follow proper planting instructions as provided with the specific plants that you select. This includes selecting the proper size container, soil, and fertilizer.

If you live in an all-season area, then annuals or plants that survive through one growing season only are going to be your best choice. One of the benefits of using annuals is that you can choose new flowers each year, changing the appearance of your garden almost effortlessly. Annuals that are well-suited for container growing include begonias, marigolds, salvias, petunias, and caladiums.

You can use flowers in a vegetables and herb container garden to attract beneficial insects including pollinators to your garden in order to create an optimal growing environment. Simply incorporate them into your patio using separate containers. In the case of marigolds, you can even include them in containers with certain vegetables through companion planting.

Companion Planting within Containers

Companion planting combines two or more varieties of plants together that grow well together. Typically, the combination reduces pest infestation and treatment. This occurs because some plants attract beneficial insects while others repel harmful ones.

The pairing of plants is critical to the success of companion planting. It is important to combine sun-loving plants with tall growth with shade-loving plants with a shorter height. In this way, they each get what they need without infringing on the other.

If several varieties of plants are going to share one container, then the container needs to be sufficiently large to accommodate all of them. Choose your container wisely, making sure that it provides sufficient growth for each variety of plant that you include.

Vegetable Gets Along Well With Does Not Get Along Well With
Beans Carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, marigolds Chives, garlic, leeks
Beets Lettuce, onions, sage Pole beans
Broccoli Celery, dill, rosemary Strawberries, oregano
Cabbage Oregano, sage, potato Strawberries, tomatoes
Carrots Beans, lettuce, peas, onions, radishes Radishes, chives, parsnips, dill
Cauliflower Celery, beans, oregano Peas, potato, strawberries
Cucumber Beans, peas, lettuce, celery, radishes Potatoes, cauliflower, basil
Lettuce Carrots, strawberries, celery Beans, parsley
Onions Broccoli, cabbage, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce Peas, beans
Peas Beans, carrots, cucumbers, radishes Onions
Potatoes Beans, cabbage, peas Cucumbers, squash
Tomato Carrots, celery, parsley, marigolds Potatoes, fennel

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