One fun way to enjoy gardening, especially if you’re limited for space, is growing plants in containers.
For many people in aged care or shared living, growing their favourite plants in assorted pots is a wonderful way to continue to enjoy gardening activities in any location. This is especially therapeutic for anyone moving from their own home into retirement living or aged care.
Here’s a few benefits of container gardens;
- Have limited space? Use any size or shape container to grow in the space you have available. Hanging baskets and vertical potted gardens are perfect for small spaces.
- Containers can be moved to catch the sun. Place potted plants in any area that receives at least 4 hours of sunshine per day.
TIP – place pots onto a plant stand with wheels to easily move around outdoor areas.
- They are easy access. People with limited movement can place containers at a suitable height to care for plants. Also pots can be placed within easy access of kitchens or outdoor dining areas.
- You can be creative with containers. Any item that can hold potting mix and has good drainage is considered suitable to grow plants in. Try an old wheelbarrow, bucket or styrofoam box.
- A garden can be created anywhere, which is perfect for anyone in aged care or sharing a home to grow a variety of plants, including succulents, small fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables and herbs.
- Cluster pots of various colours, shapes and sizes together to create an interesting visual impact in an empty corner or sparse patio area.
There are many options for growing in containers, so hunt around at second stores, local tip shops, resource centres and even look in your own garden shed as many containers are potential gardens.
Even an old bath tub is suitable for growing herbs, flowers or leafy greens and looks lovely sitting in a kitchen garden.
TIP – Avoid any containers that have stored chemicals or have sharp edges. If your choice of container has no drainage holes then use a power drill to place at least 3 or 4 drainage holes in the base of the container.
For extra ideas on growing in small spaces listen to my podcast episode – https://soiltosupper.com/episode-009-growing-food-in-small-spaces/
Container Growing Mix
One of the best tips I can give is to use THE BEST premium potting mix available. If possible avoid the cheap options as your plants will struggle to grow and poor quality potting mix will not contain all the nutrients needed to grow edible foods and colourful flowers through the seasons. So my suggestion is to buy premium potting mix and add an extra nutrient boost with organic slow release fertiliser when planting.
If you have a worm farm you can also add worm castings to boost the nutrients in your mix and worm juice applied after planting.
For more information on worm farms have a read of my article – https://soiltosupper.com/whats-the-difference-between-composting-and-worms-farms/
When choosing plants to grow consider what you would like to eat and enjoy and also which plants suit being grown in containers.
Also get to know how the plant grows, the size of the plant when fully grown and what factors are needed to help the plants grow. A few examples are suitable light, correct temperature, adequate water, correct pH and soil conditions and also nutrients. This will vary between plants so it’s a good idea to get to know your plant’s needs before potting.
It’s also important to consider the season and your climate. Choose plants suitable to grow in the current season and climatic conditions, eg sub-tropical, temperate or cool.
Many herbs can be grown together and small leafy veggies like lettuce, rocket and Asian greens grow well in containers with herbs.
Try growing rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano or marjoram together as they prefer a dryer mixture and to grow in the full sun.
For a slightly shaded position with moist potting mix grow parsley, chives and spring onion together.
Also grow a lemon or lime, strawberries or blueberries, which are very well suited to containers, and enjoy growing your own fresh fruit. Sow nasturtium seeds in the potting mix to grow a good companion for fruiting plants.
Cherry tomatoes grow very well in large tubs and their best friend in the garden is basil!
Read all about companion plants here… https://soiltosupper.com/how-to-grow-companion-plants-in-your-garden/
If you’re new to gardening then make a start with a few containers of easy herbs like parsley, basil and a few mixed lettuce and then add to your collection of plants as you learn more.
To inspire you to grow, here’s a few other great reasons to grow in containers…
- Container growing is easy, fun and generally low maintenance.
- Great for the Environment. By using the 3r’s of reuse, reduce and recycle you’ll find great ways to reuse old containers, reduce waste and recycle fun things to grow food in. Read my article or extra sustainability tips – https://maggiebeerfoundation.org.au/news/sustainable-living-in-aged-care-by-cath-manuel/
- They look gorgeous. Growing in attractive containers is a fabulous way to create beautiful areas around your home. Flowers, herbs and colourful veggies are a great way to add stunning visual impact to any outdoor spaces, even an unattractive corner can be transformed with creative container growing.
- Easy to move. You can move containers to wherever they grow best, or if you change your mind with your potted colour you can move it to another location. Also a great way for moving plants in and out of the rain and to follow the sunshine in courtyards and small spaces.
Caring for you Crops
If you’ve started with a quality potting mix when growing in containers, then a good soak of water every few days is good to begin with.
Make sure the containers are well drained, so not to waterlog the roots of plants, and if they receive rain then no need to give them extra watering.
Liquid fertiliser is an important part of container growing as the plants absorb nutrients through the leaves as well as roots.
Apply liquid foliar fertilisers directly to the leaves and on the soil around the plants weekly for the first 4 weeks, then fortnightly after that.
A regular application of liquid fertiliser will ensure that the plant is accessing all the vital nutrients it needs to thrive.
Growing a container garden is a very rewarding activity for gardeners of all ages and abilities and this style of gardening suits any location and lifestyle.
Cath Manuel is a Horticultural Consultant specialising in Therapeutic and Kitchen Gardens. Cath is the Founder of Soil to Supper which provides onsite services nationally and online programs through the Soil to Supper Community. Cath has many years’ experience in the horticulture industry and has a great passion for sharing her knowledge to inspire people of all ages and abilities to enjoy gardening activities and grow fresh food.
Find more on therapeutic gardening at www.soiltosupper.com