Whether you live on a farm, in the suburbs, or the middle of the city, nearly everyone can experience the joy of container gardening.
Container gardening is a great way to grow your favorite flowers, vegetables, herbs and more.
All you need is a windowsill, ledge or small patio space, and you’re in business! It can transform a barren concrete pad or patio into an instant explosion of color.
No matter what you grow, successful container gardening really comes to down to following a few simple steps. A couple to get them off to a good start, and a few more to keep them looking great.
Let’s take a look at 6 big secrets to container gardening success:
Container Gardening Secrets – 6 Tips To Success
#1 Pick The Right Sized Pot
It all starts with selecting the right container. The number one rule of thumb – make sure your container, pot or basket is big enough to let your plant or plants grow throughout the season.
The more space available to expand their roots, the better. Larger root systems absorb more water and nutrients.
And that means a healthier plant. It also prevents early root balling, which can make container plants shed of water immediately
If you are growing a single flower, then a standard 8 or 10″ pot might work fine. But if you want to load up with plants – go bigger!
For larger vegetable style plants, we grow in 5 gallon buckets or large nursery pots. We then cover with a home-made decorative wood cover. It works great and provides plenty of room.
Be creative – anything can work as a holding vessel as long as it is big enough and can hold the soil together. We’ve used old barrels, buckets, and more with great results.
#2 Provide Great Drainage
Whatever container you choose, it needs to drain well. Most potted plants suffer more from being water-logged than from drying up.
If a plant cannot drain excess water after a heavy rain or watering, the roots sit in excess moisture, and the problems begin.
The one small hole found in most pots is sometimes not enough. We like to drill a few extra small holes around the bottom of our containers to allow for additional drainage.
We also use a small layer of pine nuggets in the bottom of our larger containers to keep the holes from plugging up with soil.
The pine bark is light, so it doesn’t weigh down the planter like rocks will. It also allows the water to pass through easily below. Even a few small pieces in small pots can work wonders to help water drain.
#3 Use The Right Soil Mix
Next up – the soil. Having the right soil mix in your containers is absolutely critical!
Whatever you do, don’t attempt to use regular soil from your flowerbeds or gardens. It is simply too heavy and does not have enough lasting nutrients.
Start with a good quality potting mix, or create your own from an equal mix of sand, pulverized topsoil, compost and perlite.
We like to add in a cup of worm castings to our mix to provide a good slow release fertilizer. Worm castings are also great at helping to provide air pockets in the soil.
#4 Pick The Right Plant For The Right Location
Location, location, location! Before you plant, know what your plants will face from the elements, and plant accordingly. If you are growing salad tomatoes or hot peppers, your plants will need to get a lot of sun. On the flip side, if you are attempting to grow beautiful shade-loving Impatiens in a hot sunny location, it may not go so well.
Make sure to read the light requirements for the plants you choose to ensure the best results. Also, make sure to turn your containers each week to keep the growth and blooms uniform on all sides.
Proper watering is huge in maintaining a great-looking container. As we said earlier, too much water can often be more of a problem than not enough.
When to water really depends on where you live and how much sun or shade the plants are getting. In general, most container plants will need to be watered daily.
Simple rule of thumb : place your finger an inch into the soil, if it feels damp or moist, leave it alone. If it’s dry, water. Water in the early mornings or evenings when stress to the plants is at a minimum.
#6 Boost With A Natural Fertilizer
As container plants grow throughout the season, they begin to use up the nutrients in the soil. Providing a boost of fertilizer is key to keep them strong and full of blooms.
The good news, you can use natural fertilizers that will not harm the plants, you, or the soil. (See our article : 3 Great Organic fertilizers)
Remember though, too much fertilizing can result in a plant full of leaves – with little flowers or fruit.
Watering with a liquid fertilizer like compost or worm casting tea every few weeks will do the trick. They have both worked wonders for us with our container plants!
Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary.
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