How to Select the Best Seeds To Design Your Own Container Garden
For apartment and condo-dwellers, and others with constrained-growing spaces, you may think your gardening possibilities are limited. Without a large backyard filled with long, raised beds, is it still possible to grow your own fresh herbs, vegetables and flowers?
There are endless varieties of productive, organic/nonGMO seeds to plant, and tons of techniques to get great results from container gardening! You may be surprised what you can get out of a simple, 12" garden. We have some essential tips below for designing your own urban, food-producing oasis in small spaces.
5 Tips for Designing Your Own Container Garden:
1. Growing Outside vs. Inside
The incredible versatility of a container garden allows the flexibility to be planted outside, inside, or a combination of both!
When planting outside, notice how much sunlight your space receives. We suggest planting flowering & fruiting varieties (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers) in areas that get full-sun, at least 8+ hours per day so they have enough energy to produce sweet, bountiful harvests. Maybe your balcony gets a complete, daily-dose of direct sunlight, perfect for heat-loving tomatoes or cayenne peppers! These are great seeds to plant in an extra-sunny spot. Carrots, basil and flowers are all great container-neighbors for these fruiting plants because they can tolerate hot temperatures up to 90F as well.
If your porch or rooftop only sees a half-day of direct sun exposure (4-6 hours), plant salad greens, shallow-roots (radishes), herbs, and other varieties that don't produce fruit and can thrive with less light. Arrange shade-tolerant herbs and greens around large, fruiting varieties in the Custom Large Plants Seedsheet.
When growing gardens inside, set the seedlings in a south-facing window that receives 8+ hours of direct sunlight for the best success. Without such an epic, well-lit window, grab a grow light! LED grow lights will allow plants to grow tall, and even produce lush leaves and fruit.
PRO TIP: When the gardening season comes to an end (with intolerable cold or hot temperatures) this is a great time to move your container garden inside. Plants that have started growing outdoors, can be moved inside to a sunny window or under an LED grow light to keep the harvests coming!
Determine what to plant late-season based on the time of year and how much outdoor-growing time you have, by checking out our growing guide below:
2. Choose the Right Seed Varieties for You
With all of the seed possibilities, focus on the varieties you use often and think about recipes you'll want the freshest ingredients for. If you can't live without fresh pesto, plant lots of sweet basil and sorrel.
Do you buy tasteless salad greens at the grocery store each week and can't live without your daily green smoothies? Grow a curated combination of dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc) to have the most local and nutrient-dense breakfast possible!
Both herbs & greens love being planted close to one another in containers, so try personalizing your own combination of fresh onion greens, parsley, kale and arugula.
For the hobby-bartender, make homegrown botanical cocktails! Grow varieties that are a little bit more funky. Impress guests at an event you're hosting with unique varieties of herbs (Thai Basil, Pea Shoots, and Cilantro). Try growing (and pickling!) other ingredients for epic-garnishes with cucamelons. Those cute fruits are real show-stoppers as ultimate garnishes.
3. Plants Grow At Their Own Pace
It's a little known fact that some plants grow significantly faster than others. Additionally, a select few can only be harvested once (mostly root vegetables such as radishes or carrots), while most varieties will continue to grow back for weekly (or sometimes 2x/week) harvests!
Fast-growing, single-harvest plants such as radishes can be picked after just a couple of weeks, and then the whole plant (root and all!) is done. This allows other varieties (maybe greens/herbs) to spread out and continue to produce more fresh harvests.
Although herbs are fast-growing, they have a relatively longer lifespan than salad greens. Combine herbs or carrots with larger, fruiting varieties to harvest at the same time.
With a tomato and basil container garden, the basil can be harvested first in just a few weeks. It will continue to grow for weekly harvests until the tomato starts producing fruit. Then, you can really enjoy that complete homegrown caprese flatbread.
4. Tricks of Companion Planting
Certain seed varieties actually grow healthier when planted near others. Plant "companion species" together in your container garden, and allow the varieties to help one another grow. Some varieties have this symbiotic relationship to deter insect pests. Others work together with the nutrients in the soil, taking more of some nutrients in the soil and less of others. Certain varieties grow taller to shade others, creating a desirable cooler area in the garden for shade-tolerant plants to thrive.
Examples of companion plants include:
- Tomatoes + Basil
- Tomatoes + Marigolds
- Herbs + Greens
- Lettuce + Onions
- Radishes + Spinach
- Carrots + Beans
- Beet Greens + Kale
- Cucamelons + Dill
5. Keep Full-Grown Dimensions in Mind
Be your own mini-landscape architect, and think about where each variety will be located within the garden container. Arrange long-leaved and vining plants on the outside edges to grow over the sides of the container. This will help plants like peas, carrots, cucamelons, borage and nasturtium expand and grow healthier!
Select taller-growing varieties such as dill, fennel, kale, scallions, cilantro or tomatoes to grow in the center. These can grow tall in the middle without shading out the surrounding plants too much.
PRO TIP: As always, if one variety is growing faster than the others and smothering, simply start harvest the outer leaves to make room!