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Happenings Around Embrey

Two kids potting a flower on a garden table

28 June . 2021

6 Steps to Great Container Gardens

Gardens bring color and joy to any yard—and sometimes food.

But they don’t have to always take up the whole yard or be a major undertaking.

They’re called “container gardens,” which means the plants grow in pots of some type instead of in the ground. Sometimes container gardens hang in baskets, other times they sit on a porch or patio. They can even be inside near a window or a combination of all of these. And the homes at Embrey Mill are full of great container garden spots.

Container gardens are about nurturing a little bit of nature right in your very own home: a fun complement to Embrey Mill’s Community Garden maintained by our garden club. Having a container garden is also a phenomenal learning experience for your whole family.

Here are six tips to help you cultivate a container garden:

  1. Be reasonable with your garden size. Don’t go “all in” right away and plant more than you are sure can take care of. It’s okay to start small and grow your garden later in the season or next year. What you don’t want to do is be overambitious and then end up with a lot of dead plants.
  2. Select plants that grow well in our Northern Virginia climate. Not all plants grow well everywhere, so you want to select the ones that will grow best either indoors or outdoors at Embrey Mill. Your local garden store can help you find just the right plants.
  3. Learn what your plants like to eat and drink. Part of caring for any living thing is knowing what it needs to eat and how much it needs to drink. Plants are no exception. The great thing is seed packets and sproutlings always come with that information (along with light needs). Make sure to save the care and feeding instructions!
  4. Pick the right pots for the right plants and spaces. Just like people, different plants like different types of houses. And by houses, we of course mean pots. You want to make sure the pots you use give the plants enough room to grow, while protecting the delicate roots from both hot and cold.
  5. Plan in advance where your container garden will live. This sounds obvious, but it’s something that’s easy to forget. When a pot is full of plants, dirt, and water, it can get quite heavy quite quickly. It’s best to pick your container spots before you add all the additional weight. Your back will thank you.
  6. Know when to harvest. If you are growing fruits, veggies, or herbs, you’ll eventually have some food to show for your efforts. But you don’t want to pluck the fruits of your labors (pun intended) too early. Again, those little tags that come with your plants or seeds probably give you advice on when to harvest. If not, the internet will know!

Container gardens are both simple and difficult. In theory, it’s just plants, sun, dirt, and water. But the joy and color (and sometimes foodstuffs) they yield make all the effort worthwhile. Grow a container garden, sing to your plants, water them with kindness (and real water too), and you will know you’ve achieved something that enabled our ancestors to revolutionize the world: agriculture.

For a masterclass in container gardening basics, check out this free online course by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.