Step 5: Choose from the following container garden options and purchase plants accordingly. Now that you are set with your materials, you are ready to plant. Fill the pot about ¾ full with potting soil, and then dig in several scoopfuls of fresh compost for nutrient enrichment. Plant your seeds according to the directions on the packet. For instructions on planting seedlings, use the GEF Vegetable Planting Chart on the website (which also includes a printable illustrated version that you can take out to the garden!). Choose any of the following container garden options for a wide variety of edible and floral combinations.
Butterfly Herb Garden – This combination of flowers and herbs will be irresistible to butterfly visitors. Butterflies are attracted to bright colors, as well as flowers with flat surfaces (they provide ideal surfaces for landing).
- 1 lobelia plant, 3 dwarf zinnia plants, 4 of any combination of the following herbs: English lavender, cilantro, marjoram, chives, thyme, sage, bee balm
- Optional: flat or round stones, found in nature
Directions: Center the lobelia plant in the middle, and space the zinnias around it according to spacing instructions. Finally, plant the herbs in a circular outer rim, close to the edge. Arrange flat stones around the flowers to give the butterflies a place to rest!
Salad Bowl – A varied mix of lettuce and nasturtium (an edible flower) makes for tasty and nutritious salads.
- 1 packet red leaf lettuce, 1 packet green leaf lettuce, 1 packet nasturtium flowers.
Directions: Loosen the soil and sow the lettuce seeds 4 to 6 inches apart, at a depth of ¼ inch (or according to seed packet instructions). Cover seeds lightly. Sow nasturtium seeds ½ inch deep, close to the rim of the pot (when they grow, the leaves and flowers can be trained to spill over the edges).
The most common nasturtium pests are aphids - they love the tender leaves and like to hide on the underside and down the stems of the plants. If aphids strike, fill a water bottle with soap and water, and shoot them off the plants with bursts of soapy solution.
Tomato & Marigolds – A famous companion plant combination, marigolds are known to ward off nematodes (microscopic worms) from attacking tomato crops. Choose a patio tomato variety which are more compact than many other varieties of tomato plants, and grow well in containers.
- 1 patio/container variety tomato plant, 3 marigolds plants
Directions: Plant tomato plant in the center of your pot. Marigolds can be planted around the base of the plant and near the rim of the pot, about 8-10 inches apart.
Berry Sweet Strawberry Planter – In temperate climates, strawberries will grow and fruit year round. For climates with a hard winter, strawberries should be planted after the last freeze has passed. Choose strawberry varieties based on the time of year you are planting. June-bearing strawberries produce one large crop in early summer. Others, such as Everbearing and Day Neutral, produce berries from spring into fall.
- 4 strawberry starts per 20” container
Directions: Remove your starts from the container they came in and gently massage the roots so they will spread more easily once planted. Plant them approximately 6” apart even to the soil level—don't bury the stems or expose the roots. Water them well after planting and keep the soil moist to the touch. Full sun is best, but during the hottest months be sure to give them extra water. Some varieties, like Alpines, tolerate partial shade.
Step 6: Water your garden. When tending to the watering needs of your containers, be wary of “wet feet,” or root rot - if the water overflows from the drainage holes, you should stop watering. However, also remember that containers dry out much faster than plants in the ground, so your soil will need to be closely regulated. Here’s a helpful test: stick your finger 1-2 inches into the dirt (maybe deeper, depending on the root depth of your plants). Is the soil dry and dusty, or moist and clumpy? Use the soil's texture and feel as an indicator of moisture content. Regardless of the number of days that have passed, it is best not to water a container plant unless it needs it.
For more information about the plants included in this section, including a harvest guide, visit the GEF Vegetable Guide.