Not everyone has a big yard to grow a garden. And if you are like me, my dogs dig up whatever I plant! So I’ve resorted to container gardening on my 10 x 10 foot back yard deck to produce my own little garden of Eden. And the nice thing is, once it turns cold, I have a portable garden to bring indoors!
Container gardens can be used to accent plantings by adding, height, color and other features that may be lacking. It can also be used to confine invasive plants that would normally take over your gardening space (i.e., St. John’s Wart, grasses, etc.).
Choosing a container
When selecting a container, be creative! Containers range from simple plastic pots to complex automatic-watering irrgation systems and can be found on porches, front steps, and even rooftops! When choosing a container, it’s important to consider the size of the plant(s) you will be growing. If the pot is too small, plants will become rootbound and the soil will not be able to hold enough moisture between waterings. A good rule of thumb is to choose a container that is about 1/3 as tall as the plant (measured from the soil line to the highest leaf). If the container is too large, your plants may spend all of their energy on root development and not enough on growth.
- Avoid containers with narrow openings.
- Cheap plastic pots may deteriorate in UV sunlight and terracotta pots dry out rapidly.
- Glazed ceramic pots are excellent choices but require several drainage holes.
- Wooden containers are susceptible to rot. Redwood and cedar are relatively rot resistant and can be used without staining or painting. Avoid wood treated with creosote, penta or other toxic compounds since the vapors can damage the plants. One advantage of wooden containers is that they can be built to sizes and shapes that suit the location.
- Make sure your pot has adequate drainage. Holes should be 1/2 inch across. Line the base of the pot with newspaper to prevent soil loss (coffee liners are perfect!).
- In hot climates use light-colored containers to lessen heat absorption and discourage uneven root growth.
- Set containers on bricks or blocks to allow free drainage.
- Line hanging baskets with sphagnum moss for water retention. Keep baskets away from afternoon sun.
- If you choose clay pots, remember that clay is porous and water is lost from the sides of the container. Plants in clay pots should be monitored closely for loss of moisture.
Preparing your container
Carefully clean out the container with warm, soapy water and rinse well, especially if you are reusing dirty pots and old containers that could be harboring insect eggs and disease spores.
Don’t use the soil direct from your yard; rather, purchase a top quality potting/soil mix that is light and fast-draining, yet contains enough organic matter to hold moisture and nutrients.
Cover the drain hole with a paper filter (coffee filters work wonderfully!). Partially fill the container with potting mix. Place the plant in the pot to correct planting depth, and finish adding soil to the container and firmly pack it in around the edges of the plant leaving about 1-2 inches from the rim.
When finished, water the plant thoroughly. It is recommended to use a light solution of compost tea or kelp extract to reduce transplant shock!
As a rule of thumb, most plants need around 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day; keeping in mind that the hottest sun (and the hardest on the plants) begins after two until sundown. Therefore, when planting, you want to make sure you combine plants that require the same amount of sunlight. For example, you don’t want to combine coleus (which requires shade) with marigolds (which require full sun). Become familiar with the lighting in your yard by taking note of where your yard gets the most sunlight throughout the day and which gets the most shade and place your containers accordingly.
- Full sun = 6-8 hours of direct sunlight
- Partial sun = 4-6 hours of sunlight a day (preferably in the morning and early afternoon)
- Shade = Less than 4 hours of direct sunlight with filtered sunlight during the rest of the day.
Top Perennials for Containers:
- Shasta Daisy
Top Bulbs for Containers:
- Container Gardening Guru – http://containergardeningguru.com/
- Dummies.com – http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/containing-your-container-garden.html
- Garden Guides.com – http://www.gardenguides.com/how-to/tipstechniques/containerindoor/container.asp
- Drought-resistant Plants for Pots by Brooklyn Botanic Garden
- Dave’s Garden – Container Gardening: Design Ideas and Techniques for Container Gardening
- All About Planters – Garden Planters Basics