Container gardening is appealing during the winter and for those living where a regular garden is not possible or practical. Additionally, a garden can be time-consuming, but who doesn’t love homegrown fresh herbs and veggies? That’s why container gardens can be a useful option when you are trying to grow your own veggies, or fresh herbs, especially for apartment dwellers and anyone with limited space.
Here are some ideas for making a container garden work for you, including some essential oil tips to keep your tiny garden green and growing.
Grow Herbs in a Sunny Spot
Herbs that do well indoors include thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, and marjoram. However, keep in mind many herbs love as much natural light as possible when picking a spot for your garden. South, or southwest facing windows offer the best results. Use pots with good drainage, (e.g., they have drainage holes at the bottom and quality potting soil.)
Oil tip: When growing herbs indoors, use Peppermint in a spray bottle to keep away any bugs (yes, they do find their way indoors) that may attack your plants. The additional benefit of growing herbs if you have pets is that most cats and dogs dislike the smell of herbs, and will leave them alone.
Grow Vegetables in a Large Pot or Window Box
Plants that like pots include peppers of all types, cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes. However, you can also try any other veggies—don’t be afraid to experiment. Keep the pot on a porch or an apartment balcony in a sunny spot. Don’t forget that you will need to water a little more frequently to avoid the plant drying out, but overall you should need less water than in a traditional garden.
Oil Tip: Because the vegetable container is outside, animals like dogs and cats will be attracted to the plants. To remedy this, spray plants with Rosemary to keep animals out. If you are using your balcony, you can also use Cedarwood to keep the pests away.
Avoid Chemical Fertilizers Indoors
Fortunately, weeds in a potted or indoor garden are generally not a problem. (Use vinegar mixed with hot water as a weed killer if you have a problem.) However, fertilizer is a must. You can meet this need by composting your organic waste like vegetable peels, egg shells, and houseplants to add to the soil. For some tips on indoor composting check out this article at The Spruce.
Companion Planting with Essential Oils
Companion planting is the practice of planting two or more plants together for the mutual benefit of both. Experiments have found that planting certain vegetables together leads to enhanced quality and growth. Where space is limited, use the essential oil instead of the actual plant for the “companion plant.”
If you look up companion planting charts, you’ll find differences in comparing one chart to another. This is because companion planting will vary by region and is not entirely understood or explained, by science.
Growers have found tomatoes and basil work well together to create vigor for growth and plant resistance. Watering a tomato plant with Basil essential oil in the water can produce similar results. A good guide is to add a drop of essential oil to an ounce of water, shake well and spray the plants.
Here are some companion plant and essential oil combinations:
- Basil – Good for most garden crops, but keep away from rue. It improves the flavor and growth of garden crops, especially tomatoes and lettuce. Repels mosquitoes.
- Dill – Improves flavor and growth of cabbage family plants (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, onions). However, keep away from carrots.
- Marjoram – Good for all garden crops. Marjoram helps stimulate vegetable growth.
- Oregano – Use near all garden crops. Oregano helps deter many insect pests.
- Rosemary – Use near beans, cabbage, and carrots. It helps repel bean beetles, cabbage moths, and carrot flies.
- Thyme – For use near all garden crops. It helps deter cabbage moths.
General Container Garden Tips
Here are some helpful growing tips and reminders for any indoor container garden.
- Purchase plants that haven’t already been growing outside. Bringing plants indoors can cause trauma and affect their growth.
- Most plants naturally ‘rest’ during winter, so don’t expect abundant growth.
- Clip plants regularly to help promote growth. Remember, you’re growing them to use!
- Give plants room. A common mistake is to plant as many herbs as possible in one container. Plant companion plants in the same container. Alternatively, use companion essential oils to mist the plants (see above).
- Water the herbs at the base, where the stem meets the soil—don’t water the leaves. Water once and let the water drain completely through, then repeat.
- Don’t over-water. Allow the soil to dry before watering again. A sign of over-watering, a common mistake, is leaves turning yellow. Herbs don’t require as much water as a typical houseplant.
- Containers should have ample drainage holes. Herbs can be susceptible to fungus. Terracotta pots, no smaller than six inches in diameter, are best to allow them growth and breathing room.
- Use a high-quality organic potting soil. Avoid using soil from the outside, as it could lead to disease and pest problems. The best soil contains vermiculite or perlite that allows for adequate drainage.
- Herbs are hearty, but indoor plants do like to be fed once in a while. Use a fertilizer that promotes leaf growth (remember, herbs are grown for their leaves, not for their flowers). An easy way to feed herbs is to mix a solution that contains a tablespoon of fish emulsion in a gallon of water. Rosemary, thyme, and basil prefer soil with more lime, adding a spoonful of crushed eggshells to their soil.