Container Gardening

By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru

Container gardening is very versatile and rewarding. You can purchase containers in many materials or you may have something around the house that could be an interesting planter. You are only limited by your imagination. Make sure your container has a few holes in the bottom to ensure good drainage.

Do not use the soil from your garden as this soil tends to compact over time in a container garden. Invest in a potting mix formula suited to container gardening as they are designed to not compact when used in a container. Before adding the soil to your container, place a coffee filter or a few rocks over the drainage holes to prevent the soil from washing out. A large container can be filled halfway with foam packing peanuts or bark mulch before adding soil which also makes the planter much lighter if you have to move it around.

Deciding what to put in your planters can be the hardest part. Many garden vegetables can be grown in containers (patio or cherry tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, even cucumbers supported on a trellis, herbs), just make sure the container you choose is deep enough to accommodate what you are trying to grow.

Perennials, trees, and shrubs can be successfully grown in a container garden but need to be planted in the ground in the fall if you want them to survive. Another great choice are bulbs or tubers that have to be dug up each fall. By using them in a container garden, you get a spectacular display of flowers but then don’t lose track of the bulb in the garden when it is time to dig it up for fall storage.

Strawberries also come in a variety suitable for containers called hanging strawberry. The berries are fully edible and the plant will grow over the edges of the pot making picking very easy.

When designing container gardens with plants of varying sizes, start in the middle with the largest and plant your way out to the edges of the container. Keep in mind that in a few weeks, the plants will grow larger, so don’t overcrowd them. Three easy steps will keep it growing and looking great.

1) Water often and thoroughly. You want to water until you see water running out the bottom of the container. Remember that hanging baskets dry out quickly as they are small, and exposed to the heat and the wind.

2) Remember to cut off all of the spent flowers of flowering plants in order to encourage new flowers to bloom.

3) Fertilize regularly because the soil in a container garden loses nutrients very quickly. Buy a good all-purpose fertilizer (20-20-20) or one for flowering plants (10-20-10) and follow the directions carefully on the package. Be careful not to over fertilize.

Container gardening is just as rewarding as gardening right in the ground and watching your creation develop over the season can be great fun.