For those of you who have an aching green thumb but don’t have a yard or other land on which to plant a garden, don’t despair. Just about anyone can do container gardening, even if you have only a few herbs or vegetable plants. Container gardening has been embraced by apartment, townhouse, and condo dwellers as well as homeowners alike. Even if you do have sufficient property on which to start a garden, you may prefer to limit your efforts to containers on a patio, porch, or deck or have a combination of regular garden and containers.
What should you know to start container gardening? Here are a few tips from experts.
Choose the right containers. According to John Nusca, owner of FlowerJohn in Toronto, it’s a good idea to choose large containers so you don’t need to water your plants so often. Terra cotta pots dry out quickly and require you to water more often, but they are sturdy. Plastic pots can be lightweight, but they also can break down in sunlight. You can be creative and save yourself lots of money at the same time if you use discarded items such as ceramic bowls or teapots, wheelbarrows, buckets, or other vessels. Be sure to drill holes in the bottoms, however, for drainage.
Use clean pots. This is especially important if you are using recycled items or pots that have held other plants. Use an earth-friendly cleaner to wash the inside of your pots before planting.
Select the best soil. The soil in your backyard or the empty lot down the street probably isn’t the best for container gardening. That’s because it may be too heavy and absorbent, holding too much water and causing your roots and plants to rot. Instead, choose container potting soil. If you have some compost, don’t be afraid to mix it in!
Do your homework. Most herbs are perfect for container gardening, but the same can’t be said for vegetables. Choose the right plant for the chosen container. Root vegetables will need deeper containers while leafy greens can thrive in pots with less depth. Follow the planting directions on any seed packets. Be sure you know how much sun each plant needs to thrive and plan to position them to meet these needs. One advantage of container gardening is that you can move your pots around to more desirable locations.
Most standard-size vegetables can be grown in containers. Decide if you want to start from seed or buy seedlings or ready-to- plant vegetables. You will be able to have only one to two plants in each pot, so if you plant more seeds and they come up, you will need to thin them out. Peppers, carrots, lettuce, kale, tomatoes, summer squash, onions, swiss chard, beets, and beans (provide a pole for them to climb) are good choices.
Remember to fertilize often. Nusca recommends using manure tea for vegetables. Simply allow some horse or cow manure to soak in a large bucket of water and use the high-nutrient “tea” to fertilize your plants. Container plants should be fertilized often; every time you water your plants or every other time—see how your plants respond to determine the best plan.
Water, water, water! Container gardens typically need to be watered more often than do gardens in the ground. Water slowly and allow the water to seep into the soil. Stop when you see water escaping through the holes in the bottom of your pots. Support water conservation by collecting rain water and using leftover water from cooking vegetables and other non-oily foods.
Pick the right flowers. If you want to grow flowers in containers, there are some that fare better than others. For example, Reader’s Digest Canada recommends ageratum, bacopa, black-eyed susan vine, calibrachoa, fuchsia, nemesia, and osteospermum.
Written by Deborah Mitchell. Deborah Mitchell is passionate about personal health and the well-being of animals and the planet. She has authored, coauthored, and ghostwritten more than 40 books, contributes regularly to several websites, and shares information on physical, emotional, and spiritual health on her blog, deborahmitchellbooks.com.
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Robertson A. 7 secrets to successful container gardening. Canadian Living. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
Swezey LB. Best crops for pots. Sunset. Retrieved March 7, 2017.