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  • Starting your Container Garden: Tips for Urban Dummies container-gardening-Philadelphia Full view

    Starting your Container Garden: Tips for Urban Dummies

    deck-gardening-containerDon’t frown urbanites.

    Even if you don’t have grass in your city property limits, you can still grow your own food this season.

    I started planting seeds for the first harvest of my container garden last week.  Obviously I didn’t inherit my dad’s gardening skills regardless of my DNA, so it has taken some experimentation over the past 2 years.  (I was an Urban Dummy just a short time ago!)  Here’s the basics if you’re considering to plant this season.

    What do you need to start?

    • Large Containers – Remember to put a hole or two on the bottom to allow water to drain. Also, figure out the appropriate size based on veggie you want to grow.
    • Potting Soil – Invest in the “potting” variety from a garden store as containers have different conditions than the ground.  
    • Seeds or tiny plants
    • Watering Can
    • Gardening Shovel
    • Mini Gardening Rake
    container gardening weeding & prep
    Container: Pre & Post Weeding
    You want to analyze how much space you have, how much sunlight the area gets and what you’d use the most when planning an urban garden.  Most veggies need 6+ hours of direct sunlight a day.  I have a small deck which gets full sunlight, and have approximately 5 containers to work with. (2 very large & 3 smaller pots.)
    Have trouble remembering to water your garden? Add a reminder to a calendar.  You’ll want to keep the soil “moist” but take caution to avoid over-watering. Also, check the forecast to make sure it’s not scheduled to downpour the afternoon after you water the plants (especially with those hot-summer surprise showers.)

    Here’s what I’d recommend planting (based on my experience thus far):

    • Tomatoes from my container garden
      Tomatoes from my container garden

      Herbs – Basil, rosemary, dill, etc. all grow well in Philly seasons.  Also, you can get a shorter/longer container and put a few plants in each container.

    • Tomatoes: I’d recommend a ‘medium’ size tomato variety, one container each.
    • Jalapeños – I literally harvested 50-60 from my container garden last season.
    • Lettuce: Plant lettuce seeds now in your container as they bloom in late spring/early summer. Once you’ve harvested (and the Philly temps rise more than our March heat wave), they tend to die off where you can use the same container for a pepper/tomato plant instead).
    Jalapeno poppers from the container garden!

    I haven’t personally had luck with cucumbers or green peppers in a container garden, but if you want to try there’s experts like Mike from the Urban Organic Gardener blog that can give solid advice.  According to one of the nice farmers from the Philly Farm & Food Fest, peas grow nicely in container gardens as well.

    Readers, any advice you’d like to share?  Have success with a different veggie or fruit than me? Share in the comments!

    Planting lettuce & spinach

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

    Your thoughts . . .

    • Veganbetty

      Maybe it’s obvio, but herbs do great in a container: marjoram, basil, mint, dill, thyme, oregano. Also cherry tomatoes and some eggplants. Also, greens like chard, bok choi, kale.

    • Thank for this post. It was very informative.

    • Thanks Veganbetty – I agree, herbs are great to do! I’m also growing cilantro & such. No prob Angela – Glad you like it!