Spring is fast approaching in Coastal Virginia, and that means it's prime time for putting our green thumbs back to work by setting up functional and beautiful container gardens outdoors. Container gardening is an excellent way to put your love of homegrown edible and ornamental plants to use no matter where you live or what kind of outdoor space you occupy. Container gardens flourish on patios, balconies, porches or even rooftops, and are easily moved from place to place without much hassle or work.
To begin plotting your perfectly potted garden, you'll need to decide exactly what you want to grow, what containers you will use and where you'll want your garden to grow. Whether you'd prefer to grow edible vegetables and herbs or simply like the look of fresh flowers and greenery as outdoor decoration, there are a few basic steps you'll want to take to ensure that your container garden grows into full bloom.
Stock up on Materials
While you won't need a ton of gear to get your garden growing, you will need a few basic items to make your process simple. Begin with gardening gloves, a trowel, a hand fork and good quality plotting soil. Depending on the size of your plants, you may also need a good pair of shears.
Choose your Plants
Take the time to do your research and identify your own personal goals for your garden. Are you wanting to supplement your diet with homegrown veggies and herbs? Do you want a gorgeous, potted flower garden for showing off to friends? Make a list of exactly what plants you want to grow and ensure you have the appropriate amount of space for the containers you'll need to grow them in. You'll want to choose plants that are ideal for growing on patios (think cucumbers, zucchini and tomatoes) versus plants that require large amounts of space.
Pick out your Containers
When choosing your containers, you'll need to consider a variety of factors, including your budget, amount of space and type of plants you'll be growing. Pots can range in price from the very low end (think simple plastic) to the high end (think marble or stone). Depending upon your design aesthetic and exactly what kind of resources you'll be working with, you'll want to choose containers that fit your finances first. Also, look objectively at your space and determine exactly how much space you have to fill with pots and containers. If big, bulky pots will consume your outdoor space, it may be better to rethink your plan and scale down your plant selection.
Ensure Ample Drainage
In order for your garden to grow successfully, you'll have to make sure that you water your plants correctly and ensure that water drains appropriately. Regularly feel the soil in your plants to determine whether or not they need watering (when soil is dry to about 1 inch, it's time to water), and check the bottom of your pots before planting to ensure you have drainage holes to let water out. Make sure not to over or under water your plants, and adjust your watering schedule based on the weather (in hot, hot seasons, you may need to water more and vice versa).
Now that you've done your research and have gathered your supplies, pots and planting materials, it's time to begin your garden. Arrange your containers for your desired aesthetic and enjoy the process. Happy Container Gardening!
Photo Attribution: By abarndweller (originally posted to Flickr as Red and White) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons