Not everyone has room for a full garden but did you know that you can still grow a garden full of vegetables, herbs and flowers despite having a limited space? Balconies, verandas or patios might be small, but don’t let that stop you from creating your own mini oasis – in containers. Choosing plants can be the most exciting and challenging part of container gardening. All the choices can definitely leave one overwhelmed. The good news is that there are many plants that are perfectly acceptable for growing in containers. It really boils down to a choice of what you would like to grow and what’s suitable for your area. It’s helpful to make a plan beforehand to make the experience that much more successful and pleasant. Knowing what your choice of plants might be influenced by is the first step. Here are a few points to consider before you begin:
Finding Your Microclimate:
To make sure your plants flourish and thrive we always recommend selecting plants that will suit your region’s conditions. Balcony gardens, in particular, have very unique microclimates. Microclimate conditions depend on many factors such as exposure to sun and wind, rain, and humidity. Using your microclimate to your advantage will ensure your plants will indeed flourish and thrive.
Type of Plants:
There are countless methods of choosing your plants beyond what’s best for your specific microclimate but we suggest starting with the basics such as deciding if you want an edible garden or just blooms? Or some evergreens thrown into the mix too? It’s good to have a purpose before going into a nursery and picking your plants or seedlings so you’re not overwhelmed with all the choices.
Type of Containers:
This is important for two reasons. One: as a rule of thumb, plants should be sized to the container and containers should be sized to the area. Two: pots come in a variety of materials, such as terra-cotta, ceramic, wood, plastic and even metal. All of them work fairly equally. Although, you may want to consider the specific weight limits of your balcony and err on the side of caution if you’re worried. We suggest starting with your landlord or building supervisor for enquiring about weight limits. Good drainage holes should be in every container you plant in unless you will be utilizing a self-watering system.
Knowing Your Budget:
Gardening can seem overwhelming when you consider all of the materials you need to get started. Seeds and/or plants, pots, soil, tools, and more can add up – even on a more generous budget. Like anything else, gardening can be done on a budget or you can spend a lot. Knowing your specific budget is essential. We love these budget-friendly tips for beginners (but really, anyone can use these)!
Let’s dig into some plants that are great for container gardens – perfect for the beginners and advanced gardeners alike. We will be breaking them down into easy-to-read and easy-to-digest categories. Each containing five plants that we think are pretty swell because let’s be honest, how many of us are really eating and loving beets so much we want to grow them? With that said, let’s start with vegetables.
Vegetables Perfect for Growing in Containers
Tomatoes are one of the most popular veggies to grow. The ability to grow them easily in pots on a small patio or even on a rooftop in the middle of a busy city make them a preferred choice for gardeners. Here are a few key tips for growing tomatoes successfully in a container.
Grow it: 65 – 85 days
Eat it: One of our favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes is on an everything bagel smeared with cream cheese with sliced tomato and cucumbers. Tomatoes are so versatile they are great in just about everything – soups, salads, sandwiches. They can even be appreciated raw, if that’s your thing.
Whether you want a cucumber for slicing or pickling, there’s a variety that will suit your needs. Though it should be said that not ALL varieties are great for cultivating in containers – the best are the compact bush variety such as Suyo, Salad Bush and Bush Slicer. These varieties will still require some sort of staking trellis or tomato cage for the vines to climb up but still have a robust rooting system that adapts well to growing in a container. Small space gardening tips for container cucumbers.
Grow it: 50 -70 days
Eat it: Cukes are another one of those super versatile vegetables – enjoyed pickled or raw. We love them in salads, sandwiches (hello everything bagel!) and can even be infused in water with mint for a refreshing twist!
Believe it or not, carrots are fairly easy to grow in containers which makes them a perfect project to do with kiddos! We suggest smaller finger varieties that typically flourish better to container growing than their standard-length variety counterparts.
Grow it: 60 – 80 days
Eat it: Sweet (Whiskey-Glazed Carrots) or savory (Roasted Carrots with Parsley and Thyme) carrots can be enjoyed a multitude different of ways – just have fun and be creative!
Grown from the same bulbs as regular onions, green onions are harvested while the bulb is still small and undeveloped. Green onions have an almost unlimited amount of uses for cooking and make an outstanding vegetable/garnish to grow in containers. It’s win-win all around! If you are considering growing this flavorful plant, look at these tips on how to grow green onions.
Grow it: 70 – 90 days
Eat it: From garnishing your food to making it a part of your salad or soup, there are countless ways to consume it.
There are several varieties of zucchini that are well-suited for container growing. As long as ample room is provided for root growth and plenty of water, your zucchini plant will thrive in planters.
Grow it: About 60 days
Eat it: Making zoodles (zucchini noodles) is a great alternative to your traditional wheat pasta noodles. Zucchinis are also excellent grilled, sautéed or in salads.
Easy-to-Grow Herbs That Are Great For Cooking
If you’re not convinced that growing vegetables is your thing, another fresh option to try is growing culinary herbs. You don’t need a lot of space for growing herbs so they make the most perfect candidate for container gardening. You’ll be adding beautiful greenery, an aromatic fragrance and a wonderful organic elevation to your food AND balcony!
You might be thinking wait a minute, didn’t we already cover these under the vegetable section? It’s a common mistake to confuse green onion with chives but they are different and are used differently. If there was an award for the easiest herb to grow it would go to Chives, that’s why it’s number one on our list.
Grow it: 45 – 60 days
Eat it: Brilliant in anything that needs a slight onion and garlic touch – salads, soups, potatoes and/or added as a garnish.
Another tricky and easily confused herb – which mint is the right mint to use? Planting and growing mint in containers is super easy and actually is preferred as it is an invasive plant. This herb has so many uses that it’s a staple in many kitchens.
Grow it: 60 – 85 days
Eat it: Popular in drinks, desserts and aiding digestion. Our favorite mint recipe is a simple five-ingredient salad – watermelon, cucumber, basil, mint and feta cheese- yum!
Cilantro, you either love it or hate it. While it evokes strong opinions there’s no denying that it’s bursting with flavor and it’s absolutely amazing to cook and garnish with. Fun fact: did you know that coriander and cilantro are from the same plant? Cilantro is the young leaves and coriander are the seeds.
Grow it: 45 – 60 days
Eat it: Cilantro is outstanding in Mexican and Asian dishes but most commonly used in salsas and guacamole.
The hearty flavor of thyme makes it a key ingredient in almost every cuisine around the world. Thyme has many different varieties making this herb very versatile.
Grow it: About 70 days
Eat it: This classic herb is a welcome addition in soups, stews, meats and vegetables.
Basil is undoubtedly a favorite herb among Italian dishes since it is the ultimate favorite to pairing with tomato. Basil is also an especially beautiful plant, making it an easy addition to your patio or windowsill as both an ornamental and edible feature.
Grow it: 60 – 90 days
Eat it: Basil can be used from breakfast through dinner and even dessert!
Flowers That Even Your Kids Will Love to Grow
If you’re looking to add lots of color and fragrance to your patio garden then flowers are the way to go. Flowers come in many different colors, sizes and blooms. The following five flowers are popular, flexible and easy to grow in containers. You can grow them anywhere from window boxes to hanging baskets and containers without much difficulty.
Marigolds are flowers that grow effortlessly from seeds and are super resilient. These happy-go-lucky flowers are popular because they are beautiful, bloom all summer long and, don’t require any maintenance like pruning or fertilizing.
Nothing says summer like the big sunny face of a sunflower! Dwarf sunflowers varieties such as Music Box, Teddy Bear or Sunspot are perfect for growing in pots. Once started, sunflowers require very little care. Just remember LOTS and LOTs of sun and water!
Most Petunia varieties are suitable for growing in containers. In fact, the cascading variety are a popular choice for hanging baskets. Petunias add a bounty of color and brightness as they continuously bloom from spring until first frost.
Pansies are a well-known favorite among many gardeners as they provide a stunning display of colorful flowers for nearly six months! Pansies are surprisingly hearty in cooler weather and are easy to grow from seed, which is why we love them!
SnapdragonsSnapdragons are another cool-weather loving flower. These undemanding flowers come in a wide selection of colors and heights which make them a great choice if you want a mix of flowers in one pot.
Plants That Grow With Little to No Water
We’re going to let you in on a little secret of ours: it’s easy to look like you have a green thumb when choosing plants that are drought tolerant and are harder to kill. We all know that all plants need water to survive but there are many plants that can withstand long periods of little to no water. It’s these plants that can really shine on patios, balconies and verandas where a water source might be too far away.
Pothos is considered by many around the world as the easiest houseplant to grow. This plant is notoriously hardy and can withstand quite a bit of neglect. Your greatest concern with this plant is it growing too tall and long. If this happens, simply cut the tips off.
Lavender is easy to grow and requires little maintenance – in the right conditions. First, get a really large pot as the root system is a lot larger than the plant. Second, water only when the soil is completely dry. And speaking of soil, lavender prefers a very good draining soil. Lastly, do not fertilize.
Succulents and cacti have exploded in popularity in recent years and for good reason! Succulents are known for their diverse range of colors and shapes and they require very little watering. Keep your succulents in bright but indirect sunlight and then water when the soil is bone dry and you are good to go!
The snake plant is highly adaptable to many growing conditions which makes it a favorite across the board. Although they are very forgiving, there are a few things they do prefer like indirect but even light, well draining soil, and temperatures above 50-60.
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