Container gardening not only saves room, but it’s also a good option if you’re limited by shade, bad soil, time, mobility, or climate. Container gardens can be more productive than traditional gardens while avoiding the majority of pest and disease issues. Best of all, they bring your garden closer to you, giving you a sense of intimacy you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Almost anything can be used as a growing container for plants. Whiskey barrels, 5-gallon food buckets, bushel baskets, plastic tubs, wooden planter boxes, and even old tyres can be used instead of terra cotta, plastic, or pressed fibre pots. Planters with built-in water reservoirs, such as self-watering planters, are excellent choices.
The plants you want to grow should dictate the size of the containers you use. You can grow radishes in a 6-inch-deep pot, but you shouldn’t try to cultivate a tomato plant in anything less than a 5-gallon pot. The basic guideline is to choose the largest container possible, because the more soil there is, the more root area there will be, and the longer your plants will be able to go between waterings.
Make sure the containers have drainage holes—preferably on the sides rather than the bottom—to allow excess water to drain and prevent the roots from becoming soggy. Elevate large pots with drainage holes on the bottom on bricks or scraps of wood to allow the water to drain.
A 20-gallon pot should typically have four to six 3/4-inch holes, whereas a 30-gallon pot should have at least eight 1-inch holes. You can place stones or crockery in the bottom of the pot, but this is unnecessary with a well-aerated soil mix and will just take up important root space.
Mixtures of soil
You’ll be able to choose a soil mix once you’ve chosen the proper container.
A pre-mixed combination, such as our Potting Mix or Self-Watering Potting Mix, is the most convenient option (specially formulated for planters that wick moisture from a built-in reservoir). You can also make your own mixtures by using the recipes below as a guide. Light, friable, well-drained, and moisture-retentive soil is ideal for container-grown plants. Garden soil is far too dense, which can lead to disease and pest infestations. The majority of container-grown plants thrive on a soilless mixture of sphagnum moss, vermiculite or perlite, and completed compost.
1 cup granular, all-purpose organic fertiliser, 5 gallons finished compost, 1 gallon builder’s sand, 1 gallon vermiculite or perlite, 5 gallons completed compost
1 bushel vermiculite, 1 bushel ground sphagnum moss, 8 tablespoons super phosphate, 8 tablespoons crushed limestone, 2 cups bone meal, Standard Blend (Cornell Mix).
5 gallons ground sphagnum moss, 5 gallons vermiculite or perlite, 2 gallons compost, 1 cup granular all-purpose organic fertiliser Light Blend (for rooftops):
Over time, any soil mix will become compacted. If your containers appear waterlogged and heavy at the start of a new growing season, you may need to change your soil mix with a new one. Alternatively, Booster Mix, which replenishes depleted soil, can be used to refill the soil.
Tips for Watering Containers
- Begin with a moist-retaining soil mix.
- Water until water runs out the drainage holes and all of the soil in the container is moist.
- Reduce evaporation by covering the soil surface with a thin layer of mulch in large containers (shredded bark, leaf mold, dry grass clippings or straw.)
- To protect plants from midday heat, use a lattice, trellis, awning, or umbrella to reduce moisture loss from leaf surfaces.
- Never use softened water to water your plants. Plants are poisoned by the dissolved salts in it. The best source of water is rainwater (collected in a barrel from your roof).
- Create a miniature microclimate with your potted plants to reduce moisture loss and improve humidity.
- Container Garden Maintenance
- Plants in pots are simple to cultivate, but they do require constant, frequent maintenance.
You’ll probably return home to droopy, if not dead, plants if you go to work without watering your windowboxes or patio planters in the morning. When plants become too dry, their delicate feeder roots die, and the plant must focus its energy on regrowing the damaged roots instead of producing fruit or flowers.
If you don’t have self-watering pots or a drip irrigation system, you’ll need to check on your plants at least once a day, and sometimes twice if the weather is particularly hot. A drip watering system is a wise investment if you have more than a few planters, and especially if you travel.
Fertilizing the soil:
Because most container mixes are deficient in nutrients, your plants will be completely reliant on you for nutrition. Water weekly with half-strength, water-soluble fertiliser after applying granular organic fertiliser at planting time. If your plants appear stressed or have been chopped back, foliar feed with seaweed or fish emulsion for a rapid boost.
Cleaning and upkeep:
Remove wasted flowers and pull back leggy stems once a week during the growing season. Replace old plants with new annuals as needed, especially late-season favourites like ornamental kale and mums.
If you want to keep any of your potted plants through the winter (assuming they’re not annual blooms), trim them down and store them in a cool place. Water sparingly and wait until spring to fertilise. When the weather warms up, take the plants out of their containers, tease away the old soil, and repot them in a new soil blend.
Supports and Trellises:
Container-grown tomatoes, cucumbers, and flowering vines all require some form of vertical support. When covered with morning glories or sweet peas, trellises designed for use in a planter can also create a lovely vertical accent. Keep the trellis’ scale in proportion to the pot, and use brackets or wires to anchor it in place. It’s terrible to lose a mature tomato plant or a flower-covered trellis to an August rainstorm.
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