Outdoor Guide | Gardening

Container Gardening 101

Never gardened before? Here’s how to start


If you’ve always been curious about gardening, this is the year you earn your green thumb. Being responsible for plant life may seem overwhelming, but with a little know-how and a bit of luck, you can watch the fruits of your labor grow all summer long. No matter how much (or little) space you have to work with, there’s a container solution that can add a little life to any area.

Step 1: Pick Your Plants

Are you more of an “eat what you grow” or a “look at the pretty flowers” kind of person? If you’re in the market for plants you can eat, there are plenty of herbs and vegetables that can work for you. It’s best to choose plants with shallow, hearty roots. Good herbs for outdoor containers are chives, basil, parsley, cilantro, thyme and rosemary. Once these herbs become established, they can be happily added to tons of recipes.

If you are looking for something a little more substantial to consume, then micro greens, spinach, tomatoes, arugula, strawberries and radishes are some great options.

However, if you’re just looking to brighten up an area with some color, consider flowers that stem from bulbs: tulips, lily of the valley, buttercups and hyacinths are a few options. These types of flowers are perennials and return year after year for continued enjoyment. Annuals, another great option for flowers, only last for one season, but are thoroughly enjoyable all season long. Petunias, gardenias, impatiens, verbenas, begonias and lobelias are good flowering options.

Step 2: To Seed Or To Plant?

Choose to start from seed or starter plants. Herbs and flowers can both be started from seed. Although this is a cheaper option, it takes more work and patience. Seeds also need to be started by late spring so that you can eat them before it gets too hot or too cold later in the season. Micro greens, spinach, arugula and any leafy greens should be planted in late spring because they are sensitive to the hot mid-summer sun. Herbs are more hearty and will withstand the heat. Seeds are available at Benny’s locations statewide. hellobennys.com

Starter plants are a great option for those who want healthy and strong plants now. Most garden supply centers carry a wide variety of herbs and vegetables that they have grown from seed and are perfectly happy to be planted in your container. The hard work and patience it takes to grow something from seed has been done for you, and now all there is to do is give these starter plants a new home. Check out local gardening centers such as Confreda Greenhouses and Farms for starter plants. 2150 Scituate Avenue, Hope. 401-827-5000, confredas.com

Step 3: Choose Your Container Wisely

Pick your container. Think about where you have the room to place some containers and consider the shapes and sizes of the plants you need to grow them in. Take, for example, micro greens. In order to grow enough of these to make a salad, you will need a long window box planter. These can easily be placed along porches, walkways, fences or any place that gets plenty of sunlight. Herbs on the other hand will be perfectly happy in smaller pots, which is nice if you’d like a couple of pretty planters scattered about. Smaller annuals and perennials work very nicely in small pots as well, or grouped together in a larger one. A wide variety of containers can be found at Ocean State Job Lot and local garden centers. oceanstatejoblot.com

Step 4: Construct Your Garden

Now it’s time to get some soil and plant food. Lucky for you there are potting mixes available for every plant you have. Now is also a good time to consider plant food. As your plants continue to grow, they will need more than just water, they will need nutrients, just like us. Plant foods differ in amount of nutrients and how often they are required to be added to plants, read the labels for specific directions.

So, now you have you’re plants, their containers and soil. Let’s get these bad boys in their containers. Fill up the pot roughly half to three quarters of the way with the appropriate potting soil. Arrange the plants throughout the planter with some space between them. This will give plants the ability to grow outward and give their roots plenty of room to spread out.
Once the plants are in place, fill up the remaining space with the potting soil. Make sure not to pack the soil too densely. If the soil is too dense, drainage could be compromised, which causes root rot. Now it’s time to water your newly planted plants. Give them a good watering. This will sort of glue the plants to the soil, and cause them to establish themselves in their new home.

Each plant has different watering needs. The best way to figure out how often a plant should be watered is to stick your finger into the soil about an inch down. If the soil is dry, it’s time to water again. Some plants need to be watered every couple of days, while others only require weekly waterings.

So there you have it. The once daunting task of adding a little life to your outdoor space isn’t so scary after all. With a little care and commitment, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor all year long.

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