QUESTION: I’m getting started with container gardening and am not sure what to put on my supply list? What do I need for container gardening? — Timothy J.
ANSWER: Container gardening is one of the easiest ways to get started with growing a garden of your own. If you already do some gardening and are just adding a container garden to your repertoire, you’ll only need to get a few additional items. For the rest, you can call on the equipment you use every day with the plants you’re growing directly in the soil.
If you’re making a supply list for container gardening and don’t already have the basics, you’ll need everything on this list: containers, fertilizer, gloves, plants or seeds, potting soil, a spade, and a watering can. If you’re starting your plants from the seed stage, you may also need seed starting trays and seed starting medium.
Containers between five and 10 gallons are just the right size for container gardening, although you can do some gardening in those that hold two to three gallons as well or even 5 gallon buckets. Plants that produce fruits or vegetables are especially likely to need the extra room and extra soil. In especially large containers, you can grow two or three plants together.
There are all different kinds of materials for containers on the market, and it’s really up to personal preference which one you should choose. Containers made of metal, dark plastic, terra cotta, or concrete are likely to hold extra warmth from the sun, which can scorch your plants in hot weather or heat up the soil and burn off the moisture you give your plants.
Whether you choose to grow flowers, herbs, or vegetables, most of your plants will need fertilizer at some point in the season to perform their best. The type of fertilizer each plant needs varies depending on what you’re growing. You’ll need to do some individual research to find out how and when to fertilize each type of plant you’ll be growing in your garden. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the fertilizer dosage and how frequently you provide your plants with fertilizer.
Gloves are one of the most important tools a gardener has, but they’re easy to overlook when you’re making a gardening supply list. Gloves do more in the garden than simply keep your hands clean while you work. They’ll protect your hands from thorns and other irritating substances that some plants create and also keep you from developing blisters and calluses. These may not seem like a serious concern, but gardening is full of repetitive tasks that, undertaken without gloves, can leave you with some really sore hands.
Plants or Seeds
One big question, whether you’re starting a container garden or planting directly in the ground, is whether you’ll kick things off with seeds or young plants from the nursery. Not all plants will be available in both forms, so you may be limited by what’s on the market. Young plants let you skip through the dicey beginning stages of your garden’s growth, but almost nothing beats the joy of watching your plants mature from the very beginning. Plants are fairly easy to ship, so as long as a company has positive reviews, don’t be too concerned about how young plants will fare in the mail.
You’ll probably be surprised at just how much potting soil it will take to stock your garden, but don’t be tempted to skimp and use soil from your outdoor garden. Your plants will grow best in the loose, fluffy potting soil you can get at the garden center or order online. For best results, you can choose potting soils made specifically for whatever you’re growing: cacti, flowers, succulents, or vegetables.
Seed Starting Medium
If you’re starting your garden with seeds instead of young plants, you’ll need a special growing medium just for your seeds and seedlings. Seed starting medium is finer and looser than regular potting soil. It holds ample moisture without becoming oversaturated, drains well, and is the perfect growing medium to give seedlings their start. The medium may come in bags, in pellets you add water to, or may be packaged with your seed starting cells, trays, or flats.
Seed Starting Trays
If you are starting your plants off from the seed stage, you’ll need some containers to grow them in before they’re transplanted into the garden. You’ll find containers at the garden center or on a nursery website made just for seed starting. Many of these products will contain the seed starting medium in a pellet that expands once water is added to it. They also usually come along with a lid you can cover your trays with until the seeds begin to germinate.
In a container garden, you won’t necessarily need a full gardening toolkit, so you can skip pieces of equipment like a hoe, fork, or shovel. However, the one gardening tool you’ll benefit most from having is a trowel. The trowel will help you when you’re adding young plants to the container garden and whenever you need to dig up a plant for transplantation. Look for one with a comfortable grip.
There will be many times when rainfall isn’t providing your container garden with all the hydration it needs. For those times, you’ll need a watering can to make sure your garden stays hydrated. Look for one that holds plenty of water and has a comfortable handle.
Once you’ve collected these few items, you’ll be ready to get started with container gardening.