Container Gardening

Container gardening is our answer to the big backyard garden we had “back home.” Even the smallest patio or porch or lanai is perfect for a crop of vegetables, a garden of flowers or a simple houseplant when grown in a container. The container is limited only by your imagination.

Planters, pots or containers come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials. What you choose will depend upon the type of plant and the location. You also can use planter boxes like -- Earthboxes -- of varying sizes to grow vegetables and flowers on balconies and patios.

As you think about the size of the container, consider that when filled with moist soil, weight can be a major factor. If you are planning on a large container, mount it on casters or place a dolly underneath so the container can be moved easily.

Consider the following guidelines when choosing your container

  • Cheap plastic pots deteriorate in UV sunlight and terracotta pots dry out rapidly. Glazed ceramic pots are excellent choices.
  • Use appropriate sized-containers. Small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly. The size and number of plants to be grown will determine the size of the container used.
  • Make sure your pot has adequate drainage.
  • Set containers on small bricks or blocks above ground level to allow free drainage.
  • Growing Mixture

    Make sure your planting medium drains rapidly but retains enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist. Purchase a good quality potting mixture or make your own from equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil, and peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. In addition to draining quickly, "soil less" mixes are lightweight and free from soil- borne diseases and weed seeds. When you add your soil to your container, leave a 2 inch space between the soil and the top of the container.

    Sunlight

    Your container garden will need at least five hours of sunlight each day, and many plants will benefit from even more. As a general rule, large-leaf plants are best grown in shade. Vegetables need the most sun. The amount of sunlight needed by flowers or plants varies depending on the varieties grown. Most houseplants will grow poorly and will suffer if grown in direct sun. A bright location, out of the sun, may provide for the best health of your plant.

    Fertilizer

    Since good potting mixes drain water rapidly, fertilizer will be washed out of the container as you water. Lighter mixes will require more frequent fertilizing than heavier mixes. It's a good idea to use a water soluble fertilizer monthly during the growing season, or a granular slow release fertilizer for more continuous feeding. Check the labels on the products to be sure that they contain a complete, balanced solution.

    Watering

    In an exposed location, container plants loose moisture quickly. Some plants will need to be watered daily, especially during hot, dry weather. Most plant will show signs of needing moisture with drooping or curling leaves. At the first sign water thoroughly until water drains from the pot. One last bit of advice: the NUMBER ONE reason for container plants dying is an abundance of TLC. This means, too much water!

    Rules

    Rule 1 – It's your garden. Use any container you want or can find. Attractive glazed pottery is readily and fairly inexpensive. Clay and terracotta pots look good anywhere. There is nothing to stop you from using whatever comes to hand. Plastic pots, half barrels, old water tanks, oil drums, large tin cans, old boots, polystyrene fish boxes - if they hold container soil you can adapt them. Just make sure the container is large enough to hold a good volume of soil and has drainage.

    Rule 2 – There few plants that cannot be grown in a suitable size container. This includes trees and shrubs, climbers, perennials, ferns, houseplants annuals and perennials. Experiment! Remember rule 1!

    Rule 3 – Never neglect them. Their roots can't escape and seek food or moisture. This means that you must give them the right conditions in the first place and continue to provide these throughout the life of the plant.

    Regular watering and feeding is a must. Watering is key. Never underestimate how much water plants need. A large container may need a gallon or more of water per session. In hot weather or direct sun, you may need to water twice a day. You may use a slow release fertilizer to feed the plant for a season. Water soluble fertilizers are easy to use and feed the plant when you water. Depending on what you are trying to accomplish with the plant – more growth, more blooms – you might fertilize monthly.

    Rule 4 – Use the correct sized container. A pot too large will either not allow the plant’s roots to receive adequate moisture, or will drown the plant because of too much water held in the soil. A rule-of-thumb is to re-pot not more than 3 or 4 sizes larger than the root ball. The number of plants together and/or the growth rate of the plant will also determine the correct pot size.

    Rule 5 – You will have either too much, or too little container mix! Either buy another plant for another container, or more mix.

    Repotting

    Requirements: Container; soil; plant; saucer; pot feet or pea gravel; panty hose/screen; plants.

    Remove the plant from its original container. If the roots are starting to wrap around or girdle the root ball, gently pull away. Place a screen or piece of panty hose inside the new pot first, then add about ¼ of potting mix. Place the plant inside the new pot to gauge correct distance from the top of the root ball and the rim of the pot – allow about 2 inches. Add soil as needed. Once you’re satisfied with the correct depth, water the potting mixture a little at a time until the mixture is fully saturated. Allow the water to settle the soil. You probably will need to add additional mixture. Before placing the container on the saucer, either use pot feet under the container and inside the saucer, or add enough pea gravel into the saucer to lift the pot off/away from direct contact with the saucer. This will allow excess water to drain from the pot and not sit in or wick water from the saucer. For the first two weeks, do not allow the soil to completely dry, nor be completely saturated. After this time, fertilize and water as necessary for plant health and beauty.

    ENJOY YOUR NEW CONTAINER GARDEN!
    MRT Lawn and Garden Center 5175 Englewood Road Venice, FL 34292    941-493-1293