Want to grow your veggies and fruits, but no yard? You don’t need a plot of land to begin growing your own produce. You can start planting, growing and harvesting with just a clear spot on your patio or porch.
Choosing Your Layout
The first thing you have to do is choose a layout for your patio garden.
There are a bunch of different patio garden ideas and concepts to choose from, but you’ll want to take into consideration your individual needs and the space you have to work with.
If you barely have any room at all, and you’re working with, say, an apartment patio garden, you might want to just stick with patio garden window boxes. Another space-saving patio garden idea is to use a trellis to create a vertical patio garden.
If you have mobility issues, you might want to use a raised bed or pallet garden (or, in some cases, grow bags), as these are generally easier for those who don’t want to be doing a lot of stooping and kneeling.
Each of these options come with its own pros and cons.
Patio Garden Window Boxes
Window boxes are easy to care for (just stick your head out the window) and are ideal for those with tiny patios or porches (or even just a balcony). When done correctly, they can be very stylish, too. You can build your own window box, if you’re particularly handy, or you can purchase a window box that matches the style of your home.
The primary downside to using a patio garden window box is that you’re working with a minimal amount of space.
Patio Garden Trellis Gardens and Vertical Gardens
Similarly, trellis gardens and vertical gardens can be very stylish, and they work well in areas where you don’t have a lot of space. Maybe you don’t want to give up your small seating area on your porch just to make an apartment patio garden. So, a trellis or vertical garden will take up minimal space.
Vertical gardens are also easy for those with mobility issues, as you won’t need to bend or crouch to care for your plants. Additionally, if you’re looking to gain some privacy in your outdoor space, a vertical garden can separate you and your nosey neighbors via some greenery.
The big cons against vertical gardens?
If not cared for properly and not built correctly, they can cause damage to the exterior of your house or apartment building due to moisture and mold (or even stain or discolor the exterior of your house). Additionally, because the plants aren’t in a secure soil bed, they require a little bit more maintenance in the way of water and fertilizer.
Most vertical and trellis gardens likewise cannot support large or heavy plants (in other words, don’t go with a vertical garden if you dream of planting watermelon).
Patio Garden Raised Beds and Pallet Gardens
Raised beds and pallet gardens are very popular with porch gardening aficionados as they’re likely the closest thing you’ll find to traditional gardening, but with a few extra perks.
Unlike traditional gardening, with raised and pallet beds, you can often create your own soil mix for optimum growth. Additionally, you're able to control your soil quality better, and you won’t see as many weeds popping up as you might with a traditional garden.
While you can buy pallet gardens and raised beds for use in your porch gardening, many home gardeners choose to build their own, as it’s really not that difficult.
Depending on your needs, you can raise your bed as high as you want it, so there’s minimal need to bend and squat to care for your plants. However, keep in mind that the higher your bed, the more soil you’ll have to buy and, believe it or not, soil is not that cheap.
Patio Garden Grow Bags
Grow bags are an alternative to traditional plant pots. They’re popular because they can be used just about anywhere, especially in areas where you have no access to the actual ground soil or where the ground soil is less than ideal.
Grow bags are easy to use (just buy and start planting) and they’re often better for plant health than traditional plant pots, as they allow the plant roots to breathe.
The downsides? Patio garden grow bags don’t last as long as traditional pots or these other options, like a raised bed, because the fabric degrades over time. Typically, you’re looking at replacing a grow bag every two years, which can add up in cost.
Additionally, grow bags aren’t often as pretty as some of the other options on this list, such as window boxes or trellis gardens, so if aesthetics is important to you, you might not be interested in patio garden grow bags.
Grow bags also require a lot of water, since the fabric is porous and, while you might think grow bags will be easy to move around your space as needed, keep in mind that they won’t be so easy to move around once you fill them with 20-plus gallons of dirt.
Buying Your Patio Garden Supplies
Whatever type of layout you choose for your patio garden, you’ll want to pick up some basic supplies.
Many home and garden stores sell soil mixes that are specially designed to address plants’ unique needs when growing in containers such as those listed above.
If you for some reason can't find a soil mix labeled for container gardening, then you can make your own organic soil mix by blending together several more common options, such as perlite, sand, peat moss, fertilizer and compost.
You’ll likely want to purchase a water stick or something similar to monitor your plants’ water needs. Other basic equipment includes a small trowel, hand weeder, watering can and possibly a watering hose, depending on your layout (you’ll find a watering hose will be particularly helpful with layouts like a vertical garden, but you might not need one for a grow bag).
Choosing Your Plants: Veggies
Of course, everyone’s ability to grow plants will depend on where you live and the climate, but there are a few general plants that more or less can grow everywhere. If you’re interested in growing vegetables for your own consumption, then there are a few that are surefire successes for a patio garden.
If you have a window box, you might want to opt for vegetables that don’t necessarily need a lot of space, such as lettuce, spinach, carrots, onions and radishes. Herbs are also excellent for window boxes.
If you’re opting for a vertical or trellis garden, you might find climbing plants to be the thing for you. Look for green beans, peas and cucumbers (just make sure your trellis is strong enough to support cucumbers; if you suspect they might be too heavy, stick with the lighter items like green beans and peas).
Raised beds and grow bags give you a bit more space and stability, more often than not. You can grow lots of things in raised beds and grow bags, such as squash, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and even potatoes if you have enough soil depth. Choosing Your Plants: Fruits
Think you need a ton of space in order to grow fruit? Maybe space for a tree, even? Think again. You don’t need to be growing an entire apple tree in your patio garden to enjoy some fresh fruit.
Window boxes can easily support small strawberry plants. Trellis and vertical gardens are great for grapes. If you have a little more space in a grow bag or raised bed, you can look into fruit plants that, with a bit of care and pruning, stay on the smaller side, such as certain fig varieties, dwarf pomegranate plants, ground cherry bushes, gooseberry bushes and even mulberry, peach and apricot trees.
Just keep in mind, many fruit plants require quite some time before they start producing. Sometimes you have to wait several growing seasons before you see any fruit and, even then, sometimes it takes a few years for that fruit to be of a quality that you’d like to actually eat.
Choosing Your Plants: Flowers
With flowers and non-edible plants, you have a bit more flexibility. For window boxes, many growers like to include a range of plants, for a mix of color and height to produce the best look possible. Popular flowers to grow in a window box include petunias, verbena, snapdragons and even ivy and ornamental grass.
As with choosing edible plants for a vertical or trellis garden, you likely want to get a flowering plant for your vertical or trellis garden that will be a climber. You can start out with some ivy for a green backdrop (after all, it can grow just about anywhere).
Then, try some other, more colorful, hardy trailers and climbers such as the lipstick plant (sometimes also called a goldfish plant), hostas, honeysuckle, wisteria, climbing roses, creeping phlox and climbing hydrangeas.
Your day-to-day patio garden care will be relatively simple, but it is important to stay on top of it. If you let your day-to-day care go for too long, you could have plants die, spread diseases to other plants and otherwise negate any hard work you put into your patio garden upfront.
You’ll want to keep a tab on your chosen plants’ individual watering requirements. A chart can come in handy, but if you worry that you’ll have an issue with this, just do a little research before picking out your plants and choose plants with similar watering needs.
You’ll also want to keep in mind your individual plants’ fertilizing needs.
Every other week or so, get your hands dirty and do a little weeding as needed and remove any dead leaves or blossoms from your garden.
Care: Inclement Weather
While it can be difficult to care for larger gardens during inclement weather (such as a summer thunderstorm), it’s a bit easier to protect your patio garden in these types of events.
If you’re worried about any of your plant containers being blown over or moved in high winds, consider sheltering them inside. For plants, such as trailing plants or vines that could break in high winds, stake them down for the time being.
Smaller plants can be protected with weighted coverings (it can be as easy as putting a bucket over your plant and putting a heavy rock atop the bucket), while larger plants can be semi-protected with a burlap wrap.
Care: Through the Seasons
If you live somewhere with a summer-only growing season, you’ll want to prepare your patio garden for winter before the cold hits. Clean out any old or decaying plants and remove any weeds. Add some fertilizer to your soil and then cover it with sheet plastic or plant covers so you’re ready to plant first thing again come spring.
Prune back any perennials. Store your gardening tools somewhere safe and out of the way.
Ready to Start Porch Gardening?
If you’re ready to start porch gardening in 2020, there’s no better time than now to begin planning your layout, shopping for seeds and envisioning what all of your thriving plants will look like come the warmer summer months.
Gardening doesn’t have to be hard. All it takes is a little planning and preparation.
So, regardless of the size of your space, think about where you could begin planting a little greenery, whether you want to pick your own veggies, fruits and herbs for use in the kitchen, or just want to brighten up your life with some happy blooms.
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