No matter where you live, if you have access to even the smallest patio or porch, you can grow a successful container garden. In fact, container gardens are likely the most popular type of garden in the world. They’re fun, easy, and inexpensive.
Most container gardens will use pots, buckets, baskets, or even your own homemade containers. Container gardening has one great advantage: it allows the gardener to control the soil and drainage for the plants. This is the most critical aspect of gardening and the real key to healthy root systems and vibrant plants.
1. Use Proper Planters for Container Gardening
Your choice of container will depend on three things: what you’re growing (how large, how many), what type of drainage is needed, and aesthetics (how the pot looks). Most container gardens in the United States are grown in plastic, clay, or terracotta pots. Many are also grown in custom-built wooden boxes. Your choice will be based on your needs and expectations. Plastic can deteriorate in sunlight, clay absorbs and sheds moisture, terracotta requires careful care, and wooden boxes will eventually succumb to rot.
Whatever your choice, it should have good drainage. In large-sized pots (pots over 15 quarts), the drain holes should be about half an inch in diameter. Choose the right size of container for the plant or plants you’ll be growing in them. The larger or more deep-rooted the plant, the larger the pot will need to be. Don’t miss this article for growing the best tomato varieties in pots.
Where you want them to drain is another consideration. If you’re on a patio above others in an apartment complex, your neighbors probably won’t enjoy being dribbled on when your pots drain. Most of the time, however, elevating the pots using bricks, small stands, or other means will let them drain adequately. Hanging pots will usually have a catch pan underneath them for capturing drained water. Beware that these can become mosquito havens, so empty them as needed. Another trick is to forgo the catch pan and place another plant underneath the hanging plant to catch the drainage.
2. Use Correct Soil Mixtures for Container Gardening
If you’re using soil purchased from the store, be sure it’s formulated for potted plants. Nice, somewhat rough compost is also great soil for potted plants. If you’re mixing your own, use loamy garden soil mixed equally with peat moss or coir and sand. Here’s more information on making your own potting soil and growing mix.
Fill the pot, but leave about two inches from the rim to accommodate water and mulch. Be sure to read the next section of this article before you begin.
Another option is to use soil-less mediums. These are purchased at the garden center and are lightweight, clean, and arid.
3. Line the Planter
If you’re using a pot with larger drain holes (as you should be), you’ll want to put a barrier between those holes and the soil. This will keep the soil from falling from the container, prevent compacted or soggy soil, and keep the plant roots from growing through the holes and into the air, which looks unsightly.
You can use large pebbles (cleaned), plastic mesh, heavy mulch (wood chips and the like), or special drainage materials available at your garden store. Put enough of whatever you choose to cover the bottom of the pot evenly. Then fill with soil (as above). If you’re using potting medium, you will probably not need a liner.
Container gardening is fun, easy, and promises healthy, lush plants. Try it today!