by Carole Schwalm
Choosing your Container
There are so many lovely gardening containers available you have an opportunity to place plants truly in a piece of art. And even do-it-yourself containers can have a charm all their own. Keep this in mind if using your container and plant to hide an unattractive area or utilizing several as privacy screening, apartment or condo landscaping or entryway beautification.
The container should fit the size of and be in sync with the shape of the plant. You also need to bear in mind that filled with soil, you’ve got a lot of weight. Make sure hanging pots are secure. The same is true for garden window boxes.
If your container lacks a drainage hole, drill one. Then put crockery in the bottom of the pot. Always have a saucer to protect against staining your patio flooring. You also do not want the window box to drain and stain the side of your house.
Soil should be porous, or fast-draining, not heavy.
For a 12” x 16” pot you’ll need 1½ cubic feet of soil.
9” x 10” takes 11 quarts
4” x 14” takes 9¼ quarts
Container plants need watering more often than those in garden soil. First, wait until the hot water runs out of the hose. Then, use a gentle stream of water. A hard and fast splash sends precious dirt flying in all directions and leaves delicate roots vulnerable. Water evenly, but don’t soak. Let the plant use the water first. You can actually drown your plant. Be sure to water well after adding nutrients.
The faster the plant grows, the more water it needs. If your pots are under an overhang close to the house, don’t assume they got wet when it rained. They didn’t. And, don’t forget to water perennials during the winter. Over the winter, in pots without perennials, think compost. Visit our article on Fertilizers & Compost for more information.
Whether in a container or not, garden vegetables especially need at least eight hours of sunlight. Don’t have a lot of space available? Think wheels or a small moveable platform under the container and move plants around.
Container-friendly for your consideration
Salad greens of any type work great in containers. For lettuce, sow the seeds in rich soil in the spring, water regularly. Contemplate micro greens, or the exotic greens served in restaurants and available in some specialty produce counters. There are micro broccoli, beets, kale and radishes seeds available. Your local nursery may not stock them.
Herbs are especially nice for hanging planters or mixed in containers: basil, chives, mint, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and thyme are just a few.
Pole or asparagus beans and cucumbers climb a trellis. We’ve been pleased with pickling cuke because they grow fast, are smaller and actually taste quite good in salads. They do take lots of water, a rich soil and fertilize often.
Tomatoes, peppers and squash need pots that are at least 1’ deep. Smaller tomatoes like Early Girl or the cherry type are excellent. The latter can also thrive in hanging pots. Tomatoes need sun. Water until the soil feels wet about 2” below the soil. Water again when soil feels dry.
There are baby bell peppers. And should you enjoy ‘spicy,’ jalapeno peppers grow well (and quickly) in pots. Water thoroughly, though not too often. Feed a couple of times during growing season. Squash gives you an edible flower AND a plant. There are summer squash that produce in less than 75 days. Water well.
In addition, kale is really beautiful in a container. Think about potatoes! We have had a lot of luck with red potatoes grown in patio containers.
Not into Veggies?
Containers love flowers and plants and vice-versa. Here are a few container lovers:
Heavenly Bamboo, junipers, flowering fruit trees,
Azaleas, bougainvillea, gardenias, hydrangeas.
Coleus, marigolds, nasturtium, pansy, sweet pea, zinnia,
Asters, carnations, geranium
Clematis, ivy, jasmine, morning glory.
Credit for the container soils figures to Sunset Magazine - April 2011
Share your container gardening experience or if you'd like more information.