Tips to get started growing your own food

Does your tiny patio or sky-high balcony mean a permanent case of garden envy? Absolutely not. Container gardening can put even the most land-strapped city dweller on the path to a gorgeous—if miniature—garden.

You can grow beautiful blooms or perfect produce and herbs in containers small enough to fit on a spacious windowsill or a tiny terrace. A container garden is a great way for novice gardeners to dip their toes in the dirt.

Here are ten quick tips from my friend The Garden Whisperer to get you started:

1. Ask a friend. Enlist the aid of plant-happy friends and take advantage of their experience. Gardeners are usually thrilled to share their expertise with an enthusiastic newbie.

2. Go online. There are a host of gardening websites that offer advice, tips and forums for gardeners of all levels. Sites like and will help you start your garden and help you grow with it.

3. Pick the perfect pot. Whether it’s clay, stone or plastic, make sure your pot has proper drainage and plenty of space for roots to spread. Keep in mind that container gardens need frequent watering. The bigger the pot, the more the soil, the longer it will stay moist.

4. Pick the perfect plants. Make sure to choose plants that will thrive in the conditions you can provide. Whether veggies or flowers, there are plants for every exposure, from direct sunlight to all-day shade.

5. The right dirt. Be sure to provide your plants with the best soil and amendments. Choose a high-quality potting soil that has added peat moss or compost to get your garden off to a healthy start.

6. Name that plant. Make labels for all your plants when you put them in the containers—write it on a popsicle stick and poke it in the soil next to the plant. And don’t forget to save the tags that tell you all about your plants—how big you can expect them to get, soil, light and watering needs as well as other care requirements. I keep mine in a binder for easy reference.

7. Grooming is key. Keep your plants well groomed and robust by pinching the dead bits off. “Deadheading” will not only ensure new growth, a healthy plant is a beautiful plant.

8. Water, water, everywhere. Container gardens, especially those that are in direct sunlight, need frequent watering. Some will require a daily drink. Feel the soil in your container. If it’s dry to the touch, get out the hose or watering can and water away.

9. Plants get hungry, too. Feeding you container plants with a few drops of liquid fertilizer when you water them will ensure they are happy and productive. Some soil has built in, slow-release plant food, but a little fertilizer boost when you water will still hit the spot.

10. Have fun! Gardening is good for the soul. It connects you with the earth, with the weather and with other gardeners. It can provide a lifetime of entertainment, enjoyment and satisfaction. Now get out there and play in the dirt!

Candace Karu makes her living writing about food, fitness and travel. She lives near the ocean in an old farmhouse with two ill-behaved dogs and two hard-working barn cats. Follow her on Instagram: @candacekaru or at


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