Gardening in containers gives owners of even the smallest porch or patio the ability to enjoy a colorful garden of flowers or their own crop of vegetables in the confines of a small space. Container gardening let’s the imagination run wild. Besides the wide variety of flowers, vegetables and foliage plants, the available container options and styles are almost endless.
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Flowerpots new,old, large and small, planter boxes, fiberglass tubs, wooden barrels, hanging baskets, concrete planters are just a few examples of the container gardening possibilities.
As many options as container gardening offers there are a few guidelines to follow for success.
When Choosing Your Container — Know Your Container
Gardening in containers give the flexibility of moving planters around if needed — for water purposes or for the plants to get more or less light.
Plastic pots especially cheap ones can breakdown and deteriorate when exposed to the sun’s ultra-violet rays (UV). Look for a pot with UV inhibitors to longer term use.
Although many glazed ceramic pots come with a colorful personality make sure they also include drainage holes to drain the excess water away from the rots. You don’t need root rot!
Terra Cotta pots can dry out quickly and can often become to heavy to move once planted.
Wooden containers are susceptible to rot — yes even durable redwood and cedar. Pressure treated wood or woods treated with creosote and other compounds can be toxic to plants. One big advantage of wood planters — they can be custom built to fit various sizes and shapes for your gardening needs.
Whatever size container you opt for make sure it carries a big enough capacity. You don’t want to a container that will quickly dry out causing the roots to suffer.
If you’re planting multiple plants in the same growing container, increase the size to accommodate the larger root system and water needs.
If growing plants requiring deep roots use deep pots! And avoid containers with narrow openings.
All pots and planters need to have adequate drainage. When selecting a pot look for pots that have holes approximately 1/2 inch across.
To prevent soil loss line the bottom or base of the pot with old pots chard’s, newspaper, screen or small stones. Even when doing this drainage holes can become plugged. Raise containers up by setting them on bricks to allow for free drainage. For basket planters line them with sphagnum moss for water retention.
Light-colored containers work best in hot climates. Dark colored containers absorb more heat which can burn roots and produce uneven root growth. For hanging baskets keep them away from afternoon sun.
Growing Mixture — The Soil
When picking any soil mix for container gardening look for potting mixture that drains well but holds enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist.
Compost can make an excellent potting soil, however I usually like to amend it with some sand and peat moss. It all comes down to the requirements of the plants you grow. If compost isn’t part of your plan, look for a good quality potting mix at your local gardening center or make your own. If you want to make your own potting soil — mix equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil, and peat moss.
Most container gardeners use we is called a "soilless" potting mix. Soilless mixes are readily available at your garden center, drain quickly, light in weight and free from soil- borne diseases and weed seeds.
When you plant your container, leave a 2 inch space between the top of the soil and the top of the container. Later adding mulch will help keep some of the moisture in.
Most potting mixes available are usually slightly acidic, so you may want to add a little lime. One tablespoon for a 10-inch pot size should work fine.
If you use clay or terra cotta pots, keep in mind clay is porous and absorbs water. Monitor the soil moisture closely. You’re pot could be absorbing more water than the plant!
Give Me Some Sunlight
Plants need light to thrive. Your container garden will need a minimum of five hours of direct sunlight each day, and many plants will benefit from even more.
Vegetables considered“leafy” like cabbage and lettuce can tolerate the most shade. Root crops like beets and carrots need more sun.
Your fruiting vegetables, tomatoes and cucumbers need the most sun. The amount of sunlight needed to flower varies depending on the varieties grown. Check the plants light requirements for flowering.
I Need Food – Fertilizer
Using potting mixes that drain water fast, yet holds moisture means fertilizers get washed out of the container as you water. That’s good as it prevents salt build up. If you’re mix is light (drains water fast) your plants will need fertilizing more often than heavier mixes.
Don’t fertilize every time you water, it’s a good idea to use a diluted mix of liquid fertilizer, but do it every other watering.
You need to provide your plants with a variety of nutrients. Check the labels on the products in you garden center to be sure that they contain a complete, balanced solution that includes trace elements.
In an exposed location, container plants loose moisture fast. Some plants will need to be watered daily, especially during hot, dry weather. Drip irrigation is a great option for easy complete watering.
What Can Your Container Garden Grow?
The list of what you can grow is diverse, the real limitation is light and space, but here’s a few ideas.
Annuals suitable for containers include:
* Lily of the Nile – even the dwarf size, Peter Pan, is ideal for smaller containers.
*Chrysanthemum – an autumn favorite.
* Daylily — easily divided to grow new plants.
* Begonia – does well in hanging baskets.
* Lantana – flowers can change color as the flowers mature.
* Petunias – popular summer flowers.
* Black-eyed Susan – flowers about two-inches in diameter.
* Zinnia – variety of colors and types.
* Marigold – shades of yellow and orange and mix well with other annuals.
* Pansy/Viola – blossom early in the spring.
* Cucumber – lots of water and a large container.
* Eggplant – does well with frequent fertilizing.
* Lettuce – needs frequent feedings and watering’s.
* Squash – Summer squash does especially well in containers.
* Tomato – many varieties do well in containers, stakes are often used and needed.
* Spinach – likes organically rich soil.
* Cabbage – grows well from seed and likes rich compost.
* Cauliflower – small varieties do best in containers, heads need lots of room.>
* Radish – grow quickly and easily.
* Blueberry – grow well in containers, need warm summer for berries to ripen.
* Potato — wide variety of potato types, and grow easily.
Container gardening can add new looks to the landscape, create a dramatic entrance, and color which can always be changing and just be flat out fun! It’s easy to get started — try it!