By Linda Stein, Master Gardener
Container gardening provides those with little or no yard an opportunity to grow vegetable, herbs or flowers inside your home or on your deck or patio. In addition, placing containers as part of your in-ground garden can add additional space and/or additional beauty to the garden.
So, what should you think about as you consider creating a container garden?
Selecting a Container
A container can be anything that can hold the soil and plants. However, it is preferable that the container have a drainage hole so the plants’ root systems aren’t sitting in water. If you are using a pot without drainage holes, consider shoreline plants since they like wet soil.
In selecting your container consider eye appeal, convenient and cost.
Eye Appeal: Appearance is, of course, important as you select containers for your plants. If you really like a decorative planter that doesn’t have a drainage hole, consider double potting – placing a pot with drainage hole and a saucer inside the decorative plant.
Impact on plants: You do want to consider how the pot you are using will impact the plants you intend to place in those containers. When purchasing a pot or planter, take into consideration the type of plant you plan on placing in the pot and the impact on the care required. Consider what the pot is made of, the size of the pot and its color.
Plastic pots are generally less costly. They are also lighter in weight. This can be of particular importance if you will be planting a larger plant. Also consider that plastic pots hold moisture and therefore the plants don’t need to be watered as frequently.
You may prefer clay pots. Clay pots are usually more costly and are definitely heavier than plastic pots. Be aware that, because they are porous, the soil in clay pots dry out more quickly.
The color of the pot also can have an impact on your plant. Darker planters absorb heat so, if the pot will be in direct sunlight the soil will dry out faster. Also think about the type of plant – is it one that likes heat or will wither due to the warmer environment in the dark pot?
All soil is not the same. Potting soil should be used in most container gardening. It includes ingredients such as plant food, peat moss, ground pine bark, and either perlite or vermiculite and a wetting agent added to keep the mix from drying out. Garden soil is predominantly soil, is denser and doesn’t drain as readily as potting soil. For plants such as cacti purchase soil specifically designed for those plants.
Consider the amount of sun when selecting the plants to insert in your container. If the plant is said to require full sun, that means it needs at least eight hours of sun. To allow your indoor plant to receive the most sunlight place near a south facing window. Plants that require shade, should be placed in a more protected location.
Also consider the size of the container for a particular plant. Check to see if the plant prefers to have a lot of space for its root system or if it prefers a tighter space.
Consider putting multiple plants in the same container. If you do choose to do this, make sure all the plants require the same type of growing environment including the same amount of sun and water. As for design – you may have heard the saying that containers should contain a “thriller, spiller and filler.” And that’s because it usually works. Include a tall, showy “thriller,” one or more plants that drape over the side of the pot (“spiller”), and one or more medium sized anchor plants in the middle (“filler”) when designing your container.
Watering and Fertilizing
Check on the requirements of the plant that you have selected. Then, water plants on their schedule, not yours. Overwatering is more frequently a problem than under watering. Signs of overwatering include: yellow or brown limp or droopy leaves and/or the overall plant looks wilted, limited new growth, algae or mold on the soil, rotted or stunted roots. If your soil is dried out, the plant looks wilted and/or the tips of the leaves appear dried out and brown it may indicate that your plant needs more water.
Remember that one of the ingredients in potting soil is fertilizer. So don’t fertilize the plant immediately. When ready to fertilize follow the instructions for the fertilizer you purchase. Don’t over fertilize and note that plants don’t grow as rigorously during winter. So, plants require little or no fertilizer during winter months.
Have fun with your container gardening. It allows you to express your creativity and will bring you tremendous beauty whether inside your house, on your balcony or in your yard.
For additional information, please view this YouTube video – Gardening on Your Deck.