Step #2: Choose Where To Start

There are four common types of gardens, all of which have their own pros and cons: traditional (in-ground), container, raised beds and vertical gardens. Once you’ve picked out the sunny spot where your garden will reside, it’s time to decide on one (or a combination) of these four garden types, depending on your needs. This is a generalized list and for the sake of time we will only be focusing on container and vertical gardens as these take up less space than the other options.

• Traditional Garden

An in-ground garden often provides you with limitless options for what you can grow, while utilizing the natural ecosystem of nutrients, bacteria, and insects already present to help your plants grow. Ideally, choose a site that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight and faces south.

• Container Garden

For those that can’t plant a traditional in-ground garden, whether because of poor soil or no soil at all (apartment or city dwellers), container gardening is a fantastic alternative! There are many different types of containers available at nurseries and home improvement stores. Your containers can vary in shape, size and material to suit your gardening needs (and personality). Beyond terra cotta and clay pots, almost anything can work as a gardening container: plastic bins, untreated wood barrels, galvanized metal buckets, a hanging planter, a planter box on a windowsill—even a recycled yogurt container or an old boot! Every container is different; some lose moisture quickly and others retain heat, so research before you buy. Make sure the container has adequate drainage and the appropriate depth to sustain the roots of your plants.

A container garden is ideal for using store bought organic potting soil, which is aerated, nutrient rich, and weed-free. It is best to place plants with similar moisture and sun needs in the same container. Not every plant is suitable for container gardening and not every container matches up well with every plant. Remember that deep-rooted plants (carrots, for example) require a deep pot (at least 10-12 inches). Ideal candidates for container gardens are leaf and head lettuces, spinach, green beans, peppers, onions, radishes, tomatoes, squash, carrots, garlic, and herbs.

• Raised-Bed Garden

Raised beds are a happy medium between a traditional garden and a container garden. The benefits of this garden include better control over the soil, more manageable weed control, and easier access for gardeners who experience pain from bending over too far or have limited mobility.

Materials used to create raised beds include cinder blocks, bricks, untreated wood and even rocks. A raised bed can be anywhere from 6 inches off the ground to the height of a standard table, and generally, these beds are about 3-4 feet wide with a depth of at least 16 inches. (Make sure your beds are not so wide or so deep that you can’t reach the plants in the center.) Fill in these beds as you would a standard garden, using good soil enriched with compost. Carrots, cabbage, and other deep-rooted vegetables do especially well in raised beds because you avoid compacted dirt that could be full of obstructions to their deep roots.

• Vertical Garden

A Vertical Garden is an indoor or outdoor planter with multiple levels of vertical pots or planters. Its vertical design saves space and water. With a flow through irrigation system, water from the top plants passes to all the lower pots. In its most basic form this type of garden can be accomplished with as little material as soil and a five gallon bucket or two. This type of garden makes the most of the limited amount of space you may have on an apartment balcony or patio and can even be grown indoors, with the appropriate lighting, and the amount of produce it bears is minimally affected.