Container Gardening on a Budget
Gardening can be a truly rewarding hobby. It contributes to physical and mental health and often yields food throughout the year. To the novice gardener, it's easy to rack up expenses. Whether you pay landscapers to construct the initial plot, or spend money on all the necessary materials for a D-I-Y backyard adventure, the cost of owning a garden can add up quickly. Here are some thrifty tips to start your own container garden and put a little less stress on your wallet in the process.*
Why Container gardens?
Container gardening is a form of gardening that involves planting seeds in containers rather than in the ground. There are many reasons why a person would choose to do this instead of the traditional method. Primarily, this technique works best for people who do not have enough space to garden. Container gardens are especially practical in urban settings or for people who cannot dedicate much time to gardening. The initial garden that I started last year began with five containers. It has since expanded to three raised garden beds and about 15 containers (more on that later). Container gardening was a perfect choice when I first started out gardening because it was less work than a full garden plot. I achieved large amounts of success with gardening in upcycled containers. One winter, I turned some old dresser drawers into a garden and yielded a ton of greens and cabbage! I find it to be a perfect intro to growing your own food.
What materials are needed?
The possibilities are endless for container gardening. You can upcycle, which means re-purposing something that is no longer being used. I have done this before with dresser drawers, pots, and metal tubs. Take a look around your garage or hit up a thrift store! You can find so many great and unique containers to plant in for next to nothing. If you have a little bit more money to spend, you can also purchase some unconventional containers for less than $10 a piece. For instance, I started my garden using these black buckets from Home Depot. They cost less than $5 a piece. Add in a few more bucks for the chalk pen I used to decorate them. They have survived over a year, through heat, snow, and so much rain...and are in great condition.
How to start?
I don't know about you, but a good list really gets me going. Here are a few tips to get your budget garden started with ease and as little stress as possible.
1. Choose what to plant. This seems obvious, but it's a really important first step. Plants have varied needs and desires. For instance, okra loves when it's roots are hot. A dark container will yield better results. If you are looking for seeds on the cheap, I encourage you to hit up your local dollar store. You can often find clearance seeds and plants for less than $1!
2. Find your containers. I think a good first step with this is to search around your house. Think outside the box to get the coolest containers. My favorite container find was an old pot I bought at a fundraiser for a $1. I unscrewed the handle, added gravel and soil, and placed an ivy plant in it. It makes me smile every time I see it. Don't worry if you can't find anything at home. Venture out to stores like Target, Home Goods, World Market, At Home, and any home improvement store. You can find all sorts of pots and containers there. And don't be afraid to get a little weird with it! These storage bins from Home Depot make a great large container for gardening. I have some rainbow chard in mine!
3. Know your soil and fertilizer. In my experience, it is super important to get soil designed for containers. It's got some extra saturation in nutrients because container gardening usually results in things getting filtered out through the soil sooner. I also like to put a little extra fertilizer. Check ingredients. There are a lot of gnarly things in fertilizer like bone and blood meal. That really grosses me out when I think about it.
4. Drainage and Light. I am not an expert by any means, but I do have a passion for gardening and thirst for knowledge. I think the thing that first yielded me success was realizing that gardening doesn't just happen. It's an art and a science and so many things are intertwined. Know and understand your plants watering needs and make sure they get drainage. Either drill holes in the bottoms of containers, or fill them with gravel before putting soil in. Also very important: every plant has different light needs. Don't put a plant that hates sun on the side of the yard that gets 7 hours of direct sun.
Now, enjoy and grow with your little plants!
*I received nothing from the aforementioned companies and I am not affiliated with them.