The first time I ate a garden-grown tomato, I felt like I had taken a bite of sunshine. I was desperate for more. Unfortunately, decades with a black thumb had proven I couldn’t keep a plant alive if I tried, so my quest began. I spent years scouring fruit stands, frequenting organic markets, and begging friends of friends for the hook-up on fresh-grown tomatoes — only to be met with little luck. I literally had no idea what container gardening was.
But then, as so often happens in life, things changed: I received a houseplant as a birthday gift.
I coddled that plant more than I ever had any human child, and, to my utter amazement, something green under my care flourished. Bolstered by a newfound confidence, I decided I was going to start a garden and grow a whole row of tomato plants. However, as I did my research, I became discouraged by the amount of work it was going to take to ensure my tomatoes had a good spot to grow; my yard was less than garden-ready.
Wandering through a local garden store, I spotted a fabric container called the Smart Pot. I read the product insert that boasted “Healthier Plants Grown Faster, Easier.” Like a classic cartoon, the light bulb clicked on over my head. I could grow my garden in containers and skip the nightmare of trying to get my wayward yard under control.
My love of container gardening grows
My container gardening journey started that day, and I haven’t regretted it once. In fact, I proselytize the joys and benefits of container gardening as much as possible — and believe me, there are some real benefits.
Versatility & accessibility
While I have a large (unruly) yard, many people in urban settings don’t. That’s where container gardens really shine. Container gardens give people the ability to grow in small spaces — balconies, patios, courtyards, windowsills, rooftops, etc. They’re great for renters, since they have the ability to simply move with you. What’s more, they’re easily accessible to people with limited mobility, the elderly, and children. And the convenience of just taking a few steps outside for fresh herbs and veggies? Well, that’s just a bonus.
Ease of care
It was laziness that led me to container gardening, but it certainly benefits the novice gardener as well. Container gardens are remarkably easy to care for. To begin with, you’re able to grow plants that your garden soil might be unable to sustain. You can also grow a variety of plants with different soil needs in a much smaller space.
Containers can be moved to sunny or shady locations during the day, making it easy to be sure your plants are getting the light they need. You can use a smaller amount of fertilizer (and far more efficiently) as there is less nutrient loss due to absorption by neighboring ground plants. And weed pulling? Forget about it! The small surface area in pots makes it unlikely that weed seeds will find their way in and take hold.
Generally speaking, plants grown in containers have fewer problems with diseases than plants grown in the soil. Insects that make their way from plant to plant in the garden are less likely to discover plants in containers on a balcony or deck. However, if you do find yourself with a disease or insect problem, you can easily isolate the affected plants by relocating the pot until the problem is under control.
And then there are our furry friends. Squirrels, rabbits, and deer aren’t usually keen on getting too close to a house — it puts them at risk for being preyed upon. This means there is a far smaller chance that they will end up dining on the plants in your container garden. Off-leash dogs won’t trample through a container garden, and deterring cats is easier when you have a smaller area of soil to cover.
If it’s too chilly to plant outside, there are hundreds of plants that will thrive indoors near a sunny window. You can even use artificial light if your windows don’t have the right amount of exposure to let in enough light. While you might think growing inside the home would limit you to houseplants, you’d be amazed at what can flourish in the right conditions. Fruits and vegetables can be grown indoors (I’m actually looking into buying a dwarf Meyer lemon tree!)
Bringing the garden indoors is especially helpful for the elderly, people who are mobility-challenged, or those who are allergy-prone. They can enjoy growing gorgeous plants within the comforts of their home, and do away with soil that may harbor dust, mold, and other allergens.
Gardening is one of the most eco-friendly hobbies out there. All edible gardens reduce food miles — those incurred both from transporting food to the store as well as personal transportation from the store to the home. By growing food at home, you can reduce your carbon footprint.
The average U.S. family uses more than 300 gallons of water at home every day. About 30% of that water is devoted to outdoor uses, and half of that is used for watering lawns and gardens. Container gardening can cut down on outdoor water usage as plants in pots require much less water than those in the ground.
Inexperience led me to believe I could never have a garden of my own, but in the past few months, I’ve watched as my tomatoes and cucumbers came to life — bushy, green, and completely free of insects. Just knowing that my plants are growing so effortlessly, without the need to use pesticides or herbicides, makes me incredibly happy. I absolutely love my container garden. I only wish I had known about this lovely method sooner.
Want more? Read What I Learned My First Year of Container Gardening.