Monday, May 24, 2010

Container Gardens

Short on space to plant a garden? Try a container garden, perfect for balconies, porches or patios. You can also use containers to add color on steps & decks, by a pool or seating area, or between your garage doors. You can grow almost anything in a container. Here are some tips for success.

Choosing Containers
  • Plants will grow in just about any kind of container; any home & garden store will have aisles of choices. Or think outside the box with household items like washtubs, laundry baskets, or a wooden Clementine box!
  • Drainage is key. Your pot or container needs to let excess water out of the bottom, so the plants won't sit in water or soggy soil. Make sure your container has holes in the bottom; drill holes if the drainage is insufficient. If you have a decorative pot without holes at the bottom, consider using a smaller plastic pot with holes inside the pot as a liner.
  • Be careful when using dark colored containers because they absorb heat, which could possibly damage the plant roots.
Choosing Plants
  • Determine how much sun exposure your container will get and choose plants that are happy in that environment. Also, choose plants that will play well together - plants that will be happy with the same amounts of water, sun, heat and food.
  • A combination of one tall plant, one filler and one trailing plant works well. Try to make sure your tallest plants won’t grow to more than twice the height of the container or more than half the width again as wide.
  • You can grow vegetables in containers too! Plant a tomato, a cucumber and some parsley or chives all in a large (24-30") container for summer salads. They grow well together and have the same water and sun requirements.
  • Plant your favorite herbs in pots that you can move indoors in the fall and winter for fresh herbs year round.
Soil & Fertilizer
  • Buy good quality potting soil; don’t use garden soil. Garden soil will compact too much in your container and won’t allow for proper drainage.
  • You can buy your potting soil with or without fertilizer. If you choose to buy without, make sure you are feeding your plants! Choose a time released fertilizer mixed in when planting or a water-soluble fertilizer every 2-4 weeks. You may want to choose an organic fertilizer if you are growing vegetables for your family to eat. You can also start your containers with organic potting soil.
  • While you considered sun exposure when you started, don’t forget about it as the season progresses. Try not to put containers in full mid-day sun. Container gardens heat up much more quickly and intensely than in the ground gardens. If you live in a hot zone, you may need to shade your plants for relief from mid-day sun.
  • Proper watering may be the most important and hardest part of container gardening. Unlike plants grown in the ground, container plant roots can't move down deeply in search of subsurface water. Don't wait until you see the plants wilting. Check your containers daily. To figure out if your plants need water, stick your finger down into the soil, about an inch, or up to your first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, add water, and if you're not sure, wait and check later in the day
  • Plan on DRENCHING pots 2-3 times a week depending on the weather, but the hotter it is, the more frequent your pots need to be watered. At the height of the summer, don’t be surprised if you are watering your plants on a daily basis.
  • Consider starting with moisture controlling potting soil; they contain absorbent “crystals” that help regulate the dampness of the soil automatically. These crystals help with both over and under watering.

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