The Basics of Container Gardening
By Michael Stanley
For many people gardening can seem like a daunting task. Gardening may not be as difficult as you think, and the rewards of stunning ornamental planters and fresh vegetables as close as you back door step are well worth the effort. If you are one of those people who are intimidated at the thought of having a garden, I would like to offer some encouragement. There are two prerequisites for success in gardening, a sustained interest and information. Green thumbs are not born, but made through experience and observation. My suggestion for the first time gardener would be to start small and in no time you will be growing container gardens that would knock P. Allen Smith’s socks off. One way to do this is by growing in containers. Container gardening is also a good option for people with limited space.
First you want to choose a container. The container needs to be large enough to accommodate the plant or plants at maturity. It also needs to have adequate drainage. Don’t be afraid to be creative, anything that can hold soil and allow proper drainage can be used as a container such as an old wash tub or wheel barrel. You may choose to use decorative ceramic, plastic or resin pots or something as inexpensive as black nursery pots. Container gardening can be designed to fit any budget.
The size of the container you use will depend on the plant. For vegetables such as lettuce, radish and herbs you want at least an 8 inch size pot. For other vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and pole beans at least a 7 to 10 gallon pot would be needed. When using old pots it is important to clean them before planting. Use 6oz of bleach in 1 gallon of water to clean you pots and then rinse thoroughly with clean water.
Never use garden soil in a container. It will compact causing poor drainage and air circulation around the roots. I would also warn against using cheap potting soils, they usually are too heavy, don’t drain well and your plants will not perform well in those soils. We want you to be successful, so start with a good quality soil-less potting mix. I would suggest changing the potting soil every two years. Most potting mixes do not contain nutrients and those that do will not have enough to last the entire season. When planting, be sure to use a slow release fertilizer to keep your plants healthy throughout the season. Water-soluble plant food can also be used. Spacing requirements for your plants can be found on the plant tag or seed packet. Use that information to determine how many plants you can use per container. Also when planting mixed containers be sure that the plants you choose have similar requirements for light and water. This can be especially important in ornamental container gardens.
Watering is the most is important aspect of container gardening. You should check your containers daily and twice a day on hot, windy days. Test the soil with your finger and water only if it feels dry. When you water your containers, you want to water thoroughly until water seeps our of the drainage holes of the pot. You also want to check for insects and disease problems periodically. Early detection is key in keeping your plants healthy.
So if you love the thought of gardening but don’t think you have a green thumb, the friendly staff at S&H Feed & Garden Supply is available to answer all your questions. So come on and get those hands dirty. Gardening can be a fun and rewarding experience but you won’t know until you try!