How to Grow a Patio Garden (& What Works Best)
I should preface this with the fact that I have very little experience in gardening. But, for what I lack in experience, I make up for with enthusiasm!
Last year was the first year I did a patio garden and sadly I decided to start far too late in the season—I think it was August when I planted stuff. My zucchini never set fruit and my pepper plant was pretty pathetic. Caterpillars ate all my parsley, but I had fun! And, I learned a lot in the process which prepped me for this year’s garden.
If you’re thinking about planting your own, this post will be super helpful! And the timing couldn’t be more perfect!
How To Grow A Patio Garden
In early April, I went to Gethsemane. It’s just north of Andersonville if you’re in the city and worth the drive! It’s huge, has tons of variety (flowers, trees, vegetables, herbs, indoor plants, etc.) and everyone that works there is extremely knowledgeable and helpful! I mostly went to just get an idea of what I wanted to plant, but of course, also ended up coming home with two new house plants—honestly, it’s kind of impossible to go there and NOT come home with something!
Where to Plant
This will probably be a pretty easy decision if you’re in the city like me and only have a patio space. But, if you have a backyard and more space available, you can decide to plant straight in the ground, in containers that you either buy or build, or in pots. For patios, pots and containers are great!
I had a ton of pots already, but wanted a container that held more stuff since our back patio is a little larger. I found this container box that had good reviews (several that I looked at had terrible reviews of the bottom falling out after a heavy rain) and ordered it.
The one I got is made from cedar and was easy to put together and very durable. It also smells pretty awesome. It has built in drainage and has been awesome so far! I also had a reader send me a picture of hers from last year and said it held up all summer long and she was about to plant in it again!
Figuring Out What to Plant
It’s not as simple as deciding what you want to plant! First, you have to consider where you are planting. In a container or pots like me? Or do you have a garden space in your backyard where you’ll be planting in the ground?
After chatting with a guy in the vegetable department, I decided to do mostly lettuces and herbs, as well as a few tomato plants and some radishes as these grow really quickly!
If you’re going the patio route, you’ll want to avoid plants with trailing vines like melons and squashes—they simply need more room than a small patio garden can provide. You’ll also want to consider your climate! Different fruits and veggies grow better in different climates. Lastly, consider how much sunlight your garden will be getting each day. We get a lot of sun on our back patio since it’s west-facing and it makes it great for plants that need tons of light.
Planning it All Out
Last year, I just showed up to the nursery without a plan and wasted so much time figuring out what I needed. This year, I went with a plan. Based on the size of that I figured out how many plants I could reasonably fit in it and made myself a short list for my next trip out here.
I was still there for a while, but mostly because I was having a great time. I knew exactly how many lettuce plants I had come for, which herbs I wanted, made a split-second decision to get French breakfast radishes instead of the regular ones, and then did a last minute impulse buy of a strawberry bush that I thought would be so fun for Owen!
I’d decided which plants were going into what containers, so when I got home, planting was a breeze! Don’t forget to get the appropriate soil for your veggies too—just ask, and someone can point you in the right direction.
When to Plant
Do a quick Google search of your area to see when the typical last freeze is and don’t plant before then. In other years, planting when I did (mid-late April) might have been a no-no, but I figured if we did get some cold weather, I could just pull the whole container inside for a day.
We did end up getting a bizarre snowstorm a few weekends back and we were in Louisville so I couldn’t pull our plants in. Thankfully, they survived and I only had a few dead leaves.
I’m so thankful I ended up waiting a bit longer because we ended up getting a crazy snowstorm a week after I’d first gone and anything I would have planted would have died. Crossing my fingers that we’re done with freezes this season!
Okay, so I have to admit, this part is still pretty new to me, so I’ll probably update this after I learn more, but here’s what I gathered from my sources at Gethsemane!
When I asked about harvesting lettuces, they told me to always harvest the outside lettuce leaves first. This way, the inner leaves get more sunshine and can grow into stronger plants. They also suggested harvesting often rather than waiting for them to grow into full plants like we’d buy at the grocery store.
Essentially, what I took away was the more often I was harvesting (without over-harvesting), the better my plants would grow and the more they would produce!
Two weeks ago, we had our first lettuce from our garden! I put bun-less turkey burgers on top and it was delicious! You can really taste a difference in the fresh lettuces versus store bought!
(P.S. If you’re often in need of dinner ideas and need a little help, be sure to sign up to be the first to hear about what we’re launching!!!)
I bought a pair of garden clippers when I was out there, but you could use kitchen shears as well. I like the clippers for herbs too because rosemary stems are thick!
Speaking of herbs! I harvest these on a need-only basis. They do well and continue to grow without being harvested on a regular basis. When I do take them, I try to take leaves or stems from the outer area of the plant. Honestly, not sure if this matters, but I just used the same lettuce principles here!
We grew up growing tomatoes in our backyard, but they didn’t always do great in Texas. It would get so hot that they would literally burst on the vine! I’m excited to see how they do this year. I got cherry tomatoes, so I’ll be waiting until they’re bright red before picking.
If you want something that matures quickly and is easy to grow—try radishes! The only downside is that they’re a root, so once they’ve been harvested, you’ll need to replant seeds to get more. They typically mature in about 30 days though, so it’s quick!
This is the area I’m least familiar with, but I think that we’ll just pick the strawberries as they look ripe. A little taste test will probably suffice. If they’re still sour, let them ripen a little longer!
I can’t wait to share more of our little garden on stories over the summer, so stay tuned! Maybe I’ll work in some recipes that utilize our fresh produce as well!