By Linda Ly
Gardens don’t need a lot of space to be special, nor do they have to be in the ground at all. When it comes to limited spaces, such as windowsills, balconies, patios or that unused corner of your yard, container gardens can create big impact in a small footprint. They’re also very forgiving if you’re a novice gardener or lack the resources to care for a larger garden; they can be as simple or elaborate as your skillset or budget allows.
A benefit to gardeners in drought-stricken areas is that potted plants require much less water than their in-ground counterparts. On the other hand, you’ll have to be more vigilant in summer as they usually need more frequent watering (up two times per day) due to the rapid evaporation that occurs in porous containers. Always remember to water your potted plants right at the roots until the water drains out the bottom. A tool with multiple watering patterns like Gilmour’s Front Control Watering Nozzle can deliver water more evenly without blasting delicate plants, and also more quickly and deeply so you can get on with other garden chores.
Ready to get started? Here are four fun ideas for starting, arranging or revitalizing your own small-space garden.
1. Recycle, reuse and repurpose.
Those ubiquitous terra cotta pots seem to be the container of choice for gardeners, and for good reason—they’re breathable, economical, long lasting and their warmth works well with almost every landscape. But several sizable quality pots can also add up if you’re on-budget! When you’re looking to save some money but still want a beautiful vessel for your plants, think outside the terra cotta box. Many household items are perfectly suitable as plant containers, especially if they’re no longer functional in their original forms.
Old wheelbarrows, watering cans, tea tins, ceramic bowls, even cookware can make for interesting and colorful containers. You can drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage and transplant directly into the containers, or use them as decorative pots and place smaller pots inside them.
If you can spare a bit more space, a vintage clawfoot tub makes an excellent (and conversation-starting!) alternative pot planter idea, especially for deep-rooted vegetable crops and small trees.
2. Carve out containers from natural features in the landscape.
If your landscape is naturally featured with nooks and crannies, such as those found in rock walls, you can take advantage of those concave surfaces by putting small plants in them. Succulents work especially well in these situations because they grow in shallow soil, don’t need a lot of space to spread, and require little maintenance once their roots are established. They also add a splash of color right where you want it, with no need for stands and hangers when space is limited.
3. Group several small containers for maximum effect.
Tight on space? Rather than having one large pot dominate what little room you do have, go with several smaller pots in varying diameters and heights to add interest to your container garden. Not only does this take the pressure off keeping one large focal plant happy (you can simply replace a smaller plant that may not do as well, as often as you need or want to), it also allows you to change your plants seasonally or rearrange them with more ease.
4. Hang containers off a railing.
If your potted plants are jostling for floor space on a patio that also houses a barbecue, heating lamp and lawn furniture, think vertically—and hang them off the railing. It’s a structural feature that usually takes a backseat to fences, posts and walls when it comes to vertical gardens, but can attractively support a lineup of small plants. (Think succulents, herbs and flowers.)
Use brackets, hooks or planter holders to suspend individual containers from the railing without committing to a more permanent setup.
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