Not everyone has even a small plot of land to put a raised bed garden upon and community gardens are not always available. Some of us have to do the porch garden.
Container gardening, porch gardening, small space gardening…they are all kind of the same. But I think when you porch garden you need to take more time to address the aesthetics of your garden as well as the functionality of it.
Here’s what I mean
Gardening in containers can get the job done. You have several or many pots with your herbs and vegetables and flowers in them. These containers generally sit in a place that sunlight reaches and are clustered to that spot. If your containers are on a porch, they usually share the space with a chair and table. You plant what you need in the pots and put them outside where you water them. That’s quite functional. Aesthetically, though, it might not lend itself to be a welcomed space. If you have the chair and table there, it is quite possible you want to be able to sit in that space and collect yourself, find peace in the day, entertain a friend or two or family member, but not if it’s junked up with pots and plants.
Here’s what I suggest
Plan out what you want to grow. Can you grow year-round and if so do you want to? What herbs are important to have fresh? What vegetables can you grow in containers in your space? Flowering plants can grow low or tall. Which do you want to accent your garden? Check with your Extension Office for a list of what grows and when in your area. It’s best to start with the minimum and add if you find you can, but at least get the basics of what you need and want when you begin.
Then, find matching pots or non-matching pots of a variety of sizes that look nice together. The space you want to use could contain a potting table, shelving against the wall or railing, decorative pieces to use to grow a vertical garden, small tables of varying heights. There are garden pots you can get from garden centers that attach to your porch railing and hang vertically 3 pots connected at a time. If you wish to grow vining plants, use a trellis and keep it trimmed to avoid it from getting out of control or (in an apartment situation) growing over to the neighbor’s porch. Consider a hanging plant if you have something to hang a planter from.
Most importantly, plan how you will water these plants. Is there a hose accessible? Do you have a watering can large enough to carry from the house and not too heavy? Where will water overflow to? If that answer is the porch downstairs, consider a tray under your pots to collect extra water.
When you get it all put together don’t forget to mark your plants so you know what you have.
My plan (an example)
I have a porch with a railing. I would need to put brackets on the railing to secure my planter boxes (I have two). For now they sit on the porch. I have several pots of varying sizes from the very large to the small. These include clay, plastic and a light-weight pottery.
Right now I am growing rosemary, catnip, green onion, marigold, sesame, cilantro, thyme and basil. My basil grows in a large pot because I like to have a lot of it growing during the summer. When it dies out, I will move the rosemary, which I bought small, into the large pot so it can fill out. We use a lot of these two herbs so I keep them large. Unfortunately when we recently moved I couldn’t transport my large rosemary plant so I gave it to a friend and started over. Cilantro is another important herb in my garden so it gets a medium pot because we use so much of it and it doesn’t replenish quickly enough to justify a large container. The thyme was started from seed in a small pot and will fill out over the winter. I’ll move it in the spring.
One window box will be empty by fall: the marigold will die and I’ll collect the seeds for next year, the rosemary will be repotted and since Porch Cat couldn’t care less about the catnip, I’ll dry it and make catnip kitty pillows for my etsy store.
The other window box and large pot were adjusted today. My three remaining sesame plants went to a large pot. I left the onions and sowed romaine lettuce, bibb lettuce and brussels sprouts into the window box. I also put a few brussels sprouts seeds among the sesame. By the time they start to grow large enough to need their own space, the sesame will be harvested. Sure there’s a lot of moving around but no more than if I had a raised bed garden that I planted year-round.
When I sow seeds I have to mark the area or pot so I know what’s growing. Plastic wine corks are great for this. Use a permanent marker to write on the cork’s side and place it near the sowed seeds. You can also use a kitchen skewer to poke through the cork and post it in the dirt. I’ve also used popsicle sticks.
Where to find other ideas
One more thing about my pots: I use one as a place to store my solar garden lights. They light up at night-time adding to the ambiance when I sit on my porch in the evening. This also provides a quick access to light should we have a night-time power outage. I keep one per family member on hand.
- Make a 12-month gardening plan and prioritize.
- Consider how you will water your garden.
- Combine herbs, vegetables and flowers for interest.
- Find containers of varying sizes that look good together.
- Accessorize with tables and crates which give varying height to your plants.
- Label your plants with creative tags.
- Be sure not to over crowd your space.