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Even if you live in the city and don't have a large backyard space, you can still create a thriving garden, via container gardening. We've compiled everything you'll need to know to get started, and where to buy what you’ll need. (File photo)
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Everything you need to know to start growing a container garden

Do you love flowers and fresh veggies, but live in an apartment or a townhouse, and never thought about having a garden? Well you can! It might not be the traditional backyard garden you are imaging, but container gardening is all the rage for city dwellers these days.

Containers can work in even the smallest of spaces, and can go just about anywhere -- the patio, the deck, in the window or along your driveway.

According to Lee Gordon, the general manager at American Plant on River Road, the two most important things in determining the success of your container gardening are how much sun you have (which will determine what you can plant) and whether you have access to water.

Here’s everything you'll need to know to get started, and where to buy what you’ll need.

Choosing Your Container and Soil

You have a wide range of choice when it comes to picking the vessels for your container garden. Containers can be a whiskey barrel, a glazed pot, window boxes, plastic, terra cotta pots, a watering can, a bucket, a hanging basket, etc. Here are a few tips to consider when selecting your containers.

  1. When buying a pot, check to see if it can be left out in the winter.
  2. Make sure the container has holes or slits at the bottom. If not, make some.
  3. Square, rectangular or cylindrical containers need less frequent watering than tapered pots.
  4. Containers for vegetables should be large enough for roots to grow.
  5. Color affects heat and moisture in the container. Lighter ones keep things cooler and moister than darker colors.
  6. Always put a saucer under your container since water that drains can sometimes stain concrete and wood decking. Saucers, little feet and other contraptions can be found at area nurseries.
  7. Only use potting soil.
  8. Buy fertilizer to feed your plants.

Choosing Flowers

If you want a variety of plants, garden experts say use this formula “Thriller, Filler and Spiller.” The thriller is for the center or back, has height and adds drama to your container. It can be something as simple as a spike or something more showy like canna and hydrangeas, but do take into consideration the amount of sun or shade you have available. Filler plants are mid-size and rounded that surround the thriller, making the container look full, like begonias or petunias. Spiller plants, such as ivy pr sweet potato vine, cascade and tumble over the sides of the container and are placed close to the edge. Follow these tips to choose the right variety for each.

  1. Annuals will give you color all summer long.
  2. Full sun is considered six or more hours of sun. Partial sun or partial shade, is four to six hours of direct sun a day. Full shade is less than four hours of direct sun.
  3. You can choose the same flower in one color or a variety of colors, such as million bells, verbena, Egyptian star flowers pentas and petunias for sun, or impatiens, begonias, fuchsias, ferns and caladiums for shade.
  4. Don’t forget that succulents make interesting container gardens, especially when you use a variety of them. A big plus is you can bring them inside to enjoy them all winter.

Choosing Veggies and Herbs

Cucumbers, eggplant, beans, peppers and tomatoes are just some of the veggies that work well in containers, but remember that most veggies need an average of six hours of sunlight per day. With the wide variety of type and size of tomatoes, they are the most popular, but they need at least eight hours of sunlight. And who doesn’t love a freshly picked tomato as a snack or in a salad?

If you want something easy that will also spice up your food, try an herb garden. To start simple, create one with basil, oregano, rosemary and parsley.

Where to Buy Everything You’ll Need

Most plants are can be found at supermarkets or The Home Depot, but if you want/need lots of advice about container gardening, the best place to go is to a nursery. Here are a few in the DMV we'd recommend.

In D.C.

In Maryland

In Virginia

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