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Greening Up a Small Space

by Richard Frisbie

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday February 16, 2009

Finding the right container for your plants is like picking the right pan for your dinner. It has to be the correct size! (You know size matters!) A good rule of thumb is that a pot's diameter should be 1/3 to 1/2 the height of the plant. Use a good quality potting medium, not potting soil, and -for best results- a water soluble fertilizer.

Viola- now you are a gardener!

Plants can be grown in a teacup, a hanging basket, or a 5-gallon bucket. Any size container can be used, but successful growing requires an adequate volume of soil for the size of the plant, and excellent drainage. Some thought should also be given to weight and portability; there's no need to throw your back out every time you move a plant. I prefer using saucers with wheels (they come in all sizes) for floor plants, and individual pots on a waterproof tray for my windowsills.

For hanging baskets it's important to have a secure hanger properly anchored into the wall or ceiling. There's nothing worse than having greenery come crashing down on you during an intimate moment. (Injuries can so ruin the mood!) Practice safe plant hanging the way you practice safe sex - every time!


A window of greenery is cheery. A potted plant on the floor in front of the window, with a sill full of pots and a few hanging plants, all capture the light to really complete a room. Plus, they’re an inexpensive window treatment. Pick the plants to suit both available light as well as how the room is used.

In the kitchen, what cook wouldn’t love to have a windowsill overflowing with fresh herbs? They provide the perfect accent to turn even a mundane dish into a culinary delight. Plus, they’re easy and rewarding to grow and use.

Combination pots may look nice with the contrasting foliage artfully arranged, but they soon become a mess. Growth and moisture requirements differ for each plant. For your herb collection think individual 5" or 6" pots on a waterproof tray. (I prefer unglazed clay pots because they breathe, but plastic is acceptable.)

As plants fade and tastes change you can mix and match the selection without disturbing the others. As a matter of fact, forget combination pots entirely- whether you want to grow flowers, greenery or food, individual pots are always better.


Gardeners with a patio or deck- and deep pockets- will like the Food Map Container ($245 & $255), a large window box on wheels. Made from recycled materials, it’s large enough for a salad garden- or a glorious floral display. The FMC is designed to let water drain quickly to keep plants from being damaged by sitting in water while allowing for the soil to stay evenly moist. It’s 33" long, 15" wide and 14" deep, holding about 4 cubic feet of potting mix. It’s available in two heights: a two-foot high model for children, or two and a half for adults. (Either height would work for someone confined to a wheel chair.) The Food Map Container is ideal for wheeling around to follow the sun, hiding a neighbor’s view, and rolling out of the way when you entertain.

Self watering Terrazza Trough Planters of a similar size but without casters are available at Gardener’s Supply Company for $100. In a sunny location you can plant them with tomato, cucumber and peppers for a satisfying salad garden. In sun or shade plant impatiens, decorative grass and trailing vines to deliver a colorful vertical display.

General advice

For cheap chic, I’ve been known to transform the large olive oil cans as urban pots; simply punch small drainage holes in the bottom. For larger plants, those 5 gallon buckets you can get from contractors and bakeries work fine as they are, but can be painted or appliqu?d to look even better.

  • You know size matters, even with containers. A good rule of thumb is that a pot’s diameter should be a third to half the height of the plant.

  • Use a good quality potting medium, not potting soil, and -for best results- a water soluble fertilizer.

  • I’d suggest making it organic if you are growing anything to be eaten, such as herbs or vegetables.

  • Richard Frisbie is a bookseller and publisher in New York State whose food & wine travel articles appear in LGBTQ and regional periodicals, as-well-as at, and He accepts free copies of books for review, restaurant meals to critique, bottles of wine and liquor for tastings, and all-expense-paid trips in exchange for articles about the destinations. He is paid for these articles. Richard promotes informed, authentic information about food, wine and travel, and does not allow the financial arrangements and/or sponsorship to affect his judgment. You can email him at: [email protected]

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