how to garden in containers

Why would we want to know how to garden in containers?

Gardening in containers is good when;

  • We don't have time for a large garden.
  • There is no space for a garden.
  • Our soil is too hard or rocky.
  • The yard has lousy drainage.
  • It's hard to bend over to pull weeds.
  • Our yard is mostly shade.
  • We live in a third story apartment.
  • We want to feed the wildlife.
  • The deck or patio needs some sprucing up.
  • We want to show off our artistic flare.
  • We just love gardening out in the fresh air and sunshine.

Container gardening is easy and fun.Containers don't limit our imagination.

container gardening is the answer to our dilemmas

If our property has poor drainage, gardening in containers is the answer. If we have poor soil, learning how to garden in containers solves that problem. Our plants will grow wonderfully in a container.

Originally, I planted some fruit and vegetables in tubs to keep the dog from running over them. Soon, I realized how much easier it is for a senior to tend plants in containers, instead of at ground level.

  1. What can we grow in containers?
  2. How do we choose our containers?
  3. Where can we put our container plants?
  4. Preparing our containers for planting
  5. How to care for garden containers
How-to-garden-in-containers-2We can landscape the deck with container plants.

what can we grow in containers?

Almost any plants that grow in the ground can be grown in containers. This includes trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs and vegetables.

It's fun to add color spots in our yard with containers of flowers. The container may be stationary, moveable on rollers or it may be a hanging basket.

Even if we live in a third story apartment, we can put out a bucket, a hanging basket or a window box of flowers for the butterflies and hummingbirds.

Container vegetable gardening is very rewarding!

Today the plant breeders are coming up with more compact sized vegetable plants. The larger vegetables like tomatoes and squash now have compact, bush or dwarf varieties that fit very well into a container.

The sprawling vegetables like cucumbers, winter squash and even the melons have bush varieties suitable for container vegetable gardening.

The vine-like plants like cucumbers or beans may be planted next to a trellis, a fence or grown on tomato cages.

Leafy greens are ideal container vegetables.Swiss chard does very well in containers.

There's a wide selection of vegetables that are suitable for containers. The plant breeders keep producing new varieties bred for growing in containers.

Many of our grandparent favorite vegetables, old-time, heirloom varieties grow in containers. But the modern gardener has more choices for growing vegetables in containers.

Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula and Swiss chard are excellent container vegetables.

Broccoli and all the cruciferous vegetables in the cabbage family are happy in containers.

Tomatoes are a favorite vegetable for growing in containers.

A full list of vegetable that grow in container would include: beans, beets, carrots, Swiss chard, cucumbers, eggplant, green onions, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, melons, mustard, parsley, peanuts, peas, potatoes, peppers, radishes, turnips, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes and tomatoes.

We can grow fruit in containers, too

Strawberries, figs, bananas, blueberries, raspberries and more will all grow in containers.

how do we choose our containers

We can grow vegetables, flowers and herbs in just about anything that will hold soil.

We may choose our containers for appearance. What will look good with the color of our house or what will look good on our patio table.

What containers are available? We may use pots, pans, buckets, tubs, whiskey barrels, livestock water tanks, an old sink, a bath tub or a wheel barrel. We may even build our own containers, such as raised beds.

Grow God's gifts in containers.Container plants compliment the house and yard.

what size do we need?

Choose containers that are large enough to hold the roots system of the plants.

Containers for large plants like tomatoes and zucchini squash need to be at least 12" deep. Smaller plants can get by in shorter pots.

Small containers for flowers will be easy to move around. Large containers that will need to be moved can be put on wheels or casters.

Five-gallon buckets are great for container vegetable gardening. They are readily available and they are easy to move with their handy handles.

Tomatoes grow very well in containers.

If the container is used, find out how it was used previously. We don't want to plant our vegetables in a container that contained toxic things like paint, pesticides or other chemicals.

where can we put our container plants?

We can grow in containers in the front yard, backyard, on the porch, up the side of the steps, in hanging pots, on the patio, the deck or anywhere we can fit a container.

When we live in a city apartment or condo, we may do our container gardening on

  • The rooftop
  • A balcony
  • In the alleyway
  • On the sidewalk
  • in window boxes

plants need sunlight

Put the plant containers where they will get adequate sunlight. Light is a very important aspect of how to garden in containers.

Many flowers and herbs like two to six hours of sun per day. Roses need six hours or more in order to grow and flower well.

There are of course many exceptions. Some flowers like Impatiens do better with less sun. Actually, they will grow in full shade.

Vegetables grow the best with six hours of sun per day. Shade vegetables will grow with as little as two hours on sunlight. But two to six hours is best for most vegetables.

preparing our garden containers for planting

Make sure the containers have adequate drain holes. This may mean drilling holes in the bottom of plastic buckets and tubs.

Use a 1/2" or 3/4" auger bit and drill several holes in the bottom of a bucket. A larger tub should have 1" holes about every six to eight inches. Some people like to drill the holes on the sides, just above the floor of the container.

We may put rocks, broken pieces of clay pots, landscape fabric or plastic window screen to keep the soil from washing out the holes.

Some of the clay or ceramic pots for sale don't have any drain holes. Use a masonry bit to make their drain holes. Drilling into a ceramic pot with a regular drill bit may cause the pot to crack or break.

what soil should we use in containers?

Our best bet for soil is to purchase commercial 'potting soil'.

Apart from the sun, the soil in our containers is the most important aspect of how to garden in containers.

The container's soil must both drain well and be able to retain moisture. It should not compact and become soggy causing the roots to rot.

The commercial soil mixes have also been sterilized to kill any pests, diseases and weed seeds.

Grow vegetables in raised bed containersRaised bed containers solve drainage problems.

Bags labeled 'garden soil' are too heavy to use in containers. The plants will sit and sulk in heavy, wet soil that doesn't drain well.

The natural soil from our yard is too heavy and do not drain well in containers.

We may improve the drainage of natural soil or bagged topsoil by mixing them with plenty of organic matter such as compost, peat moss or vermiculite.

Some people make their own containers soil mixes. But if we have a limited number of containers, our best bet is to purchase commercial 'potting soil'.

Filling the containers

  • Small pots can be filled with soil to about 1" below the rim.
  • Larger pots should be filled to 2" or 3" below the rim.
  • The soil in my very large tubs is about 5" to 6" below the top.
  • Then when you water, the soil won't wash out of the pot.

how to garden in containers

Plants need light, water and some fertilizer to grow and prosper in containers. We covered light already, above.

Share the gift of flowers in containers.Share the lovely gift of flowers in containers.

how to water our container plants

As a general rule container plants require daily watering, with some variations.

Check the soil with the index finger in the soil, up to the first knuckle. Does the soil feel dry? If so, it's time to water.

Large containers are watered less often. Small containers don't have as much soil. They dry out faster and more than likely will need daily watering.

During hot or windy days, the soil can dry out very quickly. So, the container will probably require extra watering.

During cool or cloudy weather, we don't have to water so often.

Do container plants need fertilizer?

Yes, container plants especially need fertilizer.

Container plants are watered more often than plants in the ground. The constant watering washes the nutrients out of the container.

When we planted our container garden originally, there may have been time-released fertilizer in the mix. Maybe we added compost or rotted manure. These nutrients last a few months.

So, after 3 or 4 months we need to give the plant more nutrients - fertilizer. That's how to garden in containers.

How does a plant get its nutrients from of the soil?

A plant picks up the nutrients when are in solution. Dry nutrients have no way to get up into the plant.

Soluble fertilizer is best for our container plants. Fish emulsion is good or any other liquid fertilizer with equal numbers. Liquid fertilizer is ready for immediate use. Apply it every 2-4 weeks.

In order to prevent burning the plants, make sure the soil is moist before applying the fertilizer. This keeps our plant happy and healthy.

it's a joy knowing how to garden in containers!


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