Saturday, August 21, 2010

Garden Container Planting

Garden Container Planting

Overveiw of container gardening, to those who are interested in the basics. There is enough information to start this hobby that could last a lifetime. Many of us live in cities with limited land space. When spring comes and brings with it the hint of green and growing things, there is something within us that needs to take part in the planting and growing process. Container gardening could be the answer!

Those of us who live in mobile home parks, apartments, or condominiums still may experience the satisfaction gardening brings. Window boxes, pots, and planters of all sorts. Nature provides the essentials, which are light and water. We provide the enthusiasm and energy and will see the positive results. Basic in all of mankind is the need to commune with nature. Pretty green plants create a beautiful swath of color in a drab area. Containers are portable, easy to move and decorate for special occasions perhaps a pool party. A “not so pretty” spot can be camouflaged with attractive pots of flowers.

The best garden soil that comes from our grandfather’s garden, is not necessarily the best for growing plants in containers. Regular soil is not porous enough; it will become hard. Organisms may be hiding in the soil causing poor results, such as rot and disease. Make your own potting soil by mixing one part sandy loam to one part sphagnum peat moss and one part perlite. Because this mixture uses regular soil it should be used only for established, more hardy and disease resistant plants.

A soil replacement called “potting mix” is more desirable to establish your container plants. This is a combination of pasteurized soil and peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite that allows good drainage yet retains water to help the plant to grow. You may purchase potting mixes in various combinations at your local garden store, with such trade names as Pro Soil, Metro mix, and many others.
The size of the container you may use depends on the size of the plant and the top growth and root system. Most seasonal plants and vegetables will grow nicely in a container ranging from 1 gallon to 6 inches. Larger plants such as tomatoes and roses need at least a 3-gallon pot.

Most any thing can be used to pot your plants, including old buckets and unique cans, however, it is important to have holes in the bottom for good drainage.
  • Cedar or redwood can be used without painting, and are rot resistant. Chemically treated wood should be avoided.
  • Clay has been around for a long time and is used often by gardeners. The clay is porous and water is lost from the sides, also it can break easily. If you need mobility this may be a consideration.
  • Plastic containers come in a large variety of sizes and styles. Choose the more durable types of plastic, in order to last a few seasons.

Pots and containers are not fixed items, they can be moved to suit your needs, or to lengthen their growing season. When the weather cools move to a more protected area. No hoeing or weeding makes the busy person's life much easier. The specific needs of each plant, for example the condition of the soil, acid loving or high pH, can be made to fit without disrupting the balance of adjacent plants.

The popularity of container gardening has created the development of special plants designed for this specific purpose. You can check seed catalogs for new varieties.

  • Beets Tomatoes
  • Squash Carrots
  • Lettuce Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Radish
  • Cucumber

  • Alyssum
  • Begonia: (Wax leaf)
  • Blue Bells
  • Geraniums
  • Impatiens
  • Marigolds
  • Vinca or Periwinkle
  • Lantana
  • Nasturtium
  • Pansies
  • Petunias and more!

You may encounter special problems on porch balconies with heat light and wind. There are ways to solve this problem so don’t give up to soon!

Prop your containers with what is available, such as support railings walls or pipes.
  • The container should have wide bottoms, so they will be less likely to tip or fall over.
  • Anchor trellises and supports firmly in containers.
  • If your area is very windy avoid hanging baskets, Styrofoam, or flimsy plastic.
  • Window boxes should be secured firmly in place, by screws or bolts.
  • Place gravel in the bottom of each pot to add weight and help with draining.
  • Your freestanding pots will need to be grouped together.

You can make sunscreens out of lightweight fabric by tacking it to frames, or roll-up bamboo porch screens work well.
  • You may need to move your plants to a more shady area.
  • When watering your plants, allow the water to run from the hose until cool. Hoses stored in the hot sun may have very hot water held inside, and could damage your plants.
  • Pots that are thin with the bottom close to the ground should be elevated to avoid root burn.
  • A dark color in a patio or deck can cause plants to burn. Set them on a light color such as an old sheet, white plastic, or a surface that reflects the sun.
  • Shield plants from intense heat by using pots that are light colored or white. Metallic containers will reflect sunlight and make soil somewhat cooler.

Your vegetables and plants will need an average of 6 hours of light daily. If you can easily move your pots you could then take advantage of available light. A dolly is convenient for this purpose. Placing containers against light colored walls will help increase exposure to light.

The confined area of your plants will cause them to dry more quickly than usual. They will need to be watered at least once daily and often two times. Check daily if the soil in top feels dry water until the water drains out the bottom. The increased amount of watering will cause the loss of nutrients. Fertilize often throughout the season. They will need to be fed at least every 3rd or 4th watering.

You can make your own watering system, and give your friends a break! When you pot your plant insert a small cord, a "wick" into the drainage hole. When you are ready to enjoy your vacation or time away from home, you need not worry. Insert the cord into a container of water. An empty plastic milk bottle will work great. A continuous supply of water will be carried through the cord to your plant.

Many gardeners grow herbs (in containers) and outside but near the kitchen, available quickly to use in cooking. There is nothing like the taste of fresh herbs in dishes. Many herbs are perennial and when cold weather arrives may be moved indoors.
Enjoy container gardening!

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