Guest article by Gummy Bear Revolution
Maybe you don’t have a yard. Maybe you have a yard but you’re a renter or you’re just afraid to put down roots (literally), or both. Maybe hacking away in the dirt to build a bed just ain’t your thang. Maybe you’re just looking for a way to add some fun, funky, functional aesthetic splashes to your existing yard garden. Whatever your reasons, container gardening is a great way to create a gorgeous, usable, portable garden that can stay with you year to year and house to house.
Container gardening combines beauty and function—the best of gardening really. You can find containers to fit your style, space, and way of life and make them explode with flowers, herbs and even some vegetables.
We’ll go through the how-tos from picking your containers and finding the right spot for them to planting and setting up a drip system to keep your containers happy all year long in coming posts.
But first, the big question is always what can really grow in a container? Wellllllll—-that depends on you!
You can go simple and sweet with a hanging basket or window box of spring flowers. Traditional annual favorites include pansies and geraniums but gerber daisies can thrive in sandier, well-drained soil and can even last through the hot summers with some love. If you have more space, a larger container can house a rosebush and if you have some shade too then a bright hibiscus can bring you gorgeous flowers and a tasty summer tea made from those flowers. You can seed wildflowers from a place like Native Seed Search and attract hummingbirds all summer long with your low-water desert flower container.
You can go urban chic with a designer herb container housing three or four savory herbs for use in soups or other dishes. Consider a “soup” plant with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (and yes, they can all be grown in the same pot!).
Personally, I favor the “steak plant” which is French lavender, savory, and a lemon thyme.
Consider an “Italian seasoning” garden with a pot of basil (while basil can thrive in pots, it should be kept on its own…see more about Basil), and a pot of oregano, marjoram, and thyme.
Or plant a few small pots for your baked or mashed potatoes- garlic chives, dill, and parsley usually do the trick.
Want a salsa garden? Plant small bunching onions in one pot, tomatoes in another, some cilantro and garlic chives. Divine.
Healing Herbs and Plants:
You could also grow your own tea house of sorts with containers of german chamomile, mint, and jasmine. Chamomile and jasmine have beautiful, fragrant flowers that can be used fresh or dried for herbal tisanes (tea, but without actual tea leaves).
There are several cultivars of mint that are as beautiful as they are tasty (chocolate mint being one of my favorites) that can be used for jams, teas, and obviously, Mojitos!
Finally, several veggies can do really well in containers. Tomatoes and peppers, especially the smaller fruit varieties, can be amazing producers for a long season of tasty goodness. Mini bell peppers, sweet Italian peppers, Jalapenos (most chilis really) and Thai Chilis are among my favorites. Any sort of heirloom grape or cherry tomato can be an extremely tasty and colorful addition to your collection (read for more info on tomatoes in tucson).
Sprinkle a little basil seed in as well or add pot nearby and you have summer salads and sandwiches halfway done! Some green bean (or purple bean) variations as well as some eggplants can also thrive in larger containers.
Container gardens require more vigilance with watering. Since their root systems are, well, contained, they can dry out faster. Setting up a drip system can help make sure you get them consistently watered.
Containers are easy to cover when the threat of frost strikes. Even better, small containers can be carried inside to keep them safe from deadly temperature drops.
The awesomest thing about container gardens is… you can move them. Assuming you haven’t planted a giant 200lb citrus container (which you could do…). If they’re not getting enough sun one part of the year, move them to a sunnier spot! Need more shade for the summer, shift some pots around!
Think about the kind of container garden you want and do a bit of planning.
- Do you want Herbs? Flowers? Veggies? All of the above?
How much space do you have?
What kind of container(s) do you want?
- You can go as fancy as hand-painted Mexican pottery or as utilitarian as buckets, plastic bottles, and large plastic bins. Your taste and your budget will play a role in this selection. Plastic containers like large Rubbermaid totes can be great and cheap, but often don’t last more than a season or two under the beating Arizona sun. Clay pots have better moisture retention, help keep your plants’ temperature regulated but can get pricy.
What/where is your water source?
- Having a spigot on your patio or nearby to set up a drip system or to connect a hose makes watering and maintenance easier. If you have to trek water out from inside, you might want fewer or smaller pots for your convenience.
Pick a spot.
- How much sun does that spot get?
- Do you have the option to move the pots around if you need more (or less) sun?
With a little planning and a touch of creativity, you can create an urban garden to suit your budget, space, and style.
Gummy Bear Revolution
is an East Coast transplant thriving in the desert. She’s been a plant freak for the last decade and spent many a summer working at nurseries (plants, not kids). She loves gummy bears, revolution, glitter bombs, hair dye, purple plants and flowers, gardening, homemade mojitos, suing Bank of America, and rain.