Aside from all of those vitamins waiting for you in your vegetable harvest, gardening has a host of other health benefits, including relieving stress and improving mental health. If you’re lamenting the lack of lawn with your apartment, fret no more. You don’t need a yard to garden. You don’t even really need a balcony or patio — a sunny window, or anywhere with ample natural light is a sound spot for a container garden.
Spring planting season brings deals on all things gardening — including spacious pots, seeds, and soil — but if you’re keeping your containers inside, you can plant any time of the year. (If you plan to put them on a balcony or patio, however, be mindful of your temperate zone before you foist them outside.) Before you dig yourself a hole you can’t get out of, read these tips for a flourishing container garden.
1. Match your plants to your pots.
I get it, planters are pretty! When you find one with that crackled glaze and scalloped edge you’ve been looking for, it’s hard to pass up. But not every plant can grow in every pot. Research the recommended container depths before you accidentally squander your squash (10–12 inches) or your spinach (8–9 inches).
2. Substitute soil with container mix.
Regular garden soil doesn’t contain enough air or retain enough moisture for potted plants. Usually, container mix combines soil with moss, perlite, and coarse sand, but the mixture will depend on what you’re hoping to grow.
3. Curate your plant companions.
Native Americans didn’t grow corn, beans, and squash together because they were their favorite foods — some plants grow best in the presence of others. Likewise, some plants have detrimental effects on each other. For example, corn, beans, and squash (aka the “Three Sisters”) grow well together because the corn provides structure for the beans to climb, beans provide nitrogen to help the others grow, and squash leaves shade the ground and trap in moisture. To get the most out of your garden, keep your plant’s best companions in mind.
4. Keep the sun’s rays in mind.
This might sound obvious, but hear me out: While (most) plants need ample sunlight, too much can be a bad thing. Unshaded balconies can sometimes turn into scorchingly hot plant-killers. Watch where the sunlight tracks on your patio or windowsill throughout the day, and then look up which of your plants need more sunlight and which need less. Don’t leave your poor tomatoes in the shade while your carrots bake in too much sun. (Carrots, like other root vegetables and peas, grow more foliage and less edible material if they’re in the sun for too long.)