This is the time of year when everyone goes crazy with seed and plant catalogs. Who can resist gorgeous photos of vegetables and flowers with equally tantalizing descriptions? It doesn’t help that the catalog deluge hits mid-winter when people are feeling a little cabin fever. But if you want to have a happy, healthy container garden that doesn’t leave you penniless, consider these questions.
- What type of sunlight does your balcony or patio get? Full sun (6-8 hours)? Filtered light? Partial-shade (Some direct sunlight, but less than 6 hours of it)? Full shade (no direct sunlight)? Choose plants accordingly. Matching plants to light conditions and watering correctly will solve the majority of problems container gardeners face (including pest problems).
- What do you like to eat? It’s great to try growing fruits and vegetables you’ve never eaten before, but be sure to hedge your bet with things you know you and your family like to eat.
- Do you have a long growing season or a short one? Choose plants appropriate to your zone (i.e. tomatoes that don’t need a lot of heat for colder climates) Sometimes, even though you live in a certain zone, specific conditions on your balcony can be warmer or colder than the area as a whole. You can learn about micro-zones by locating your local weather station.
- Do you get lots of snow? What about rain? Snow can be really hard on the containers themselves (freezing and thawing can crack pottery) if you plan on growing perennials. And rain is hard on plants living in containers. It’s good to choose plants with these two things in mind.
- What plants do you see at the garden center and on your neighbors’ balconies? These are clues as to what grows well in your area.
- Would you like to attract birds? Butterflies? Are you concerned about the plight of honey bees? Choose plants with birds, bees, and butterflies in mind. Remember not to spray with pesticides if you’re trying to attract wildlife!
- Do you like to can, pickle or make jams/jellies? Want to learn? Consider berry plants and fruit trees or vegetables that are suitable for pickling.
- Do you like caring for animals? Chickens are all the rage these days, but they’re not exactly apartment/condo friendly. But rabbits are, and their manure is just as good for your garden.
- Do you enjoy bouquets of flowers? Consider planting a container cutting garden.
- Are you into DIY or crafts? You can grow birdhouse gourds or plants commonly used in crafts, like lavender.
So, now that you’ve given things some thought, what do you plan to grow this year?
Photo Credit: Sweetbeetandgreenban
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