FAQs: Container gardening

If you live in an urban environment, you may not have the wide-open spaces that rural Aussies have access to. However, this doesn't mean you can't grow your own food right in your backyard! Farm-to-table eating has caught on across the developed world, and it doesn't just entail dining out at pricey organic restaurants – it also means growing your food at home.

City dwellers with an eye for the environment (and a taste for fresh produce) may want to look into container gardening as a way to grow healthy fruits and vegetables. If you've wondered whether or not this practise is right for you, read on.

Why container gardening?

If you live in a big city, one of the main benefits to container gardening is avoiding contaminants that may be present in your soil. A report by Environmental Earth Sciences, an environmental and soil consultancy agency, found that in urban areas across Australia, varying levels of contamination with substances such as lead, zinc, copper and cadmium led some soils to be poor candidates for vegetable gardening.

Those who want to grow food from their urban home may be able to do so straight from the ground – but you may wish to test your soil for levels of these compounds prior to planting your garden. You might also consider avoiding the problem by gardening out of containers.

What do I need to get started?

First, you'll need a set of containers, of course! You may wish to start small by investing in just a few containers with the goal of building your garden over time. A good pot or raised bed will need to be the appropriate size to house your produce and its roots. It should also provide adequate drainage and be able to hold your plants' weight (especially if you plan on hanging the container).

Next, you'll need potting mix, mulch and fertilisers. Potting mix comes in a variety of organic varieties, as does mulch. The purpose of mulch is to seal water into your soil when you water your plants (rather than letting it evaporate). Fertiliser can be bought organically, though you may also want to consider composting for an affordable, healthy option.

What should I plant?

Now that you have all the ingredients, it's time to plant your garden. Growing produce from seeds is a lot trickier than simply repotting an already-growing plant. Some of the best veggies for growing in containers include beetroot, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, onions, peas, tomatoes and potatoes. After they've grown, throw them into a reusable produce bag for transportation and enjoy a truly sustainable and healthy snack or side dish.