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    How to Start a Container Garden: Choosing the Perfect Location & Containers

    If you dream of having a garden of your own but have limited space and cash, you can create a container garden that fits space you do have available.

    But where do you begin? You find everything you need from local businesses to create the perfect plant paradise. In this upcoming series, we’ll share steps and advice from local experts to take to start your own container garden.

    Let’s start with the important first step: location and containers.


    First, select a space that gets natural light like a balcony, patio, or window.

    Consider the differences between indoor and outdoor locations. Outdoor areas will be more exposed to weather factors like sun, storms, and wind and may need protection.

    Also, note which direction the windows are facing and how much sunlight the area gets: this will be necessary for selecting plants and how much water they’ll need.

    Finding Containers in your budget

    containers for gardening philadelphia

    Choosing containers to use for your garden will be a decision based on a combination of practicality, style, and budget. Woody Wilson of Cityscape Farm Supply builds his with Pennsylvania-sourced Hemlock wood. If you’re looking to repurpose old materials, Wilson says that people successfully use 5-gallon buckets for containers, but don’t get anything smaller than that.

    If you do want plants to survive the winter, Anthony Bottiglieri from Urban Jungle recommends investing in containers that are resistant to all weather elements (AKA snow). Good choices are fiberglass or Frost-proof ceramics with thicker walls. Read the labels or ask if the container is intended for year-round outdoor use. Bottiglieri also cautions to consider how much your container weighs when planting on a deck or balcony.

    How to Score Get Free Containers in Philly

    Going low budget? If you’re planning to plant veggies and herbs during warm weather, a low-cost container is fine. Keep an eye out for free or cheap containers on websites like Freecycle Philadelphia or Philadelphia Urban Farm Network’s Google forum. The forum includes advice, events, and offers for free stuff. I saw ads for free 5-gallon buckets and “red wrigglers seeking loving home,” so it’s worth checking out!

    Bonus green points for repurposing would-be junk into something beautiful and useful. I once saw a home with an old toilet on their front lawn that they had planted flowers in. Got to admire the creativity!

    Consider Drainage options for your container garden

    In a container garden, it’s important to provide a way for excess water to drain to avoid root rot or drowning. Luckily, proper drainage is easy by poking or drilling holes in the bottom of your container. If you’ve built your own container from wood (like Wilson does at Cityscape Farm Supply), you can also place bottom slats so that there are cracks for water to flow through.

    According to Wilson, there are no hard and fast rules as to how many holes are needed for drainage but he recommends drilling 4 to 5 approx. ½ inch holes in a 5-gallon bucket. If your container garden is inside, place a plate or other object to catch drained water and keep it off your floors.

    The liner is optional but can help to preserve your container – especially if it is made out of wood. Wilson explains that landscape fabric is a popular option, especially for raised beds. If you’re looking for a recycled option, he says a contractor trash bag works well as long as you make holes for drainage.

    If you have a large container and don’t need the whole depth for your plants, simply add a filler like rocks, stones, or bits of broken flowerpot to save on the amount of soil you need.

    Now that we got the essential plant home, we’ll need to choose the perfect soil and plants. Stay tuned for Part II of Cheap Guide to Urban Gardening.

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    Marie Bouffard

    About Marie Bouffard

    Marie is a senior at Villanova University studying communication and sustainability. She lives for hiking, camping, skiing, and any outdoor activity. Marie is a coffee addict, loves reading, and has never met a cat or dog she didn't like.

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