How to Start a Container Garden or Square Foot Garden

Sometimes the one thing sorely missing from apartment life is greenery. But it doesn't have to be that way. A small container garden can provide your life with both food and beauty - and save you money at the same time. It can even help wildlife: a small patch of greenery in the city can help sustain essential pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

There are two methods that can be implemented in apartment living: container gardening and square-foot gardening. If you already enjoy houseplants, you're halfway there!

Container Gardening

Container gardening is simply growing flowers or produce in a small container. Many apartment dwellers grow their own fresh herbs in the kitchen window or tomato plants on the balcony. You can have as many or as few containers as you wish. The benefits of container gardening include:

  • Flexibility - you can enjoy your "garden" in a spot otherwise impossible to garden
  • Mobility - you can easily move plants to get the proper amount of sun
  • Pest Control - if you're growing inside, you can avoid insects
  • Decoration - you get to enjoy the plants, flowers, and even produce in your living space

To get started, select any sort of container that will provide drainage. If you can poke or drill a hole in it, you can plant something in it. You can buy potting soil at the local garden store. Starting with a plant is sometimes easier than trying to grow from a seed. However, don't let that intimidate you from trying to grow seeds.

Square-Foot Gardening

This method is more appropriate if you apartment has a patio, deck, or other outdoor space. It's also appropriate if you have access or rent space in a community garden. The basic concept is that you can plant a variety of flowers, herbs, vegetables or fruits in four 1' x 1' boxes. Here are the benefits:

  • Very Productive - you reduce the need for everything (seeds, plants, water, soil, etc.). Yet, your efforts are so concentrated that you can get impressive yields from very limited space, some claim 5 to 1 ratio over a traditional garden!
  • Easily Maintained - smaller space means less weeding and other maintenance
  • Reduced Physical Demands - practically anyone in any health can manage the gardening space and enjoy organic food
  • Beautiful - eye candy as well as productive use of space

To get started, I'd recommend going to the official site for square-foot gardening and checking out the book of the same title by Mel Bartholomew from the library. His book was a best-seller in the 1970s and has been recently revised with improved methods.

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