Container Gardening

Gardening, Home & Family, Outdoors
on May 20, 2001

If you long for a garden but dont have the right piece of land or time to work it, dont despair; a few good-sized pots will do. Container gardeners can grow colorful flowers and hearty vegetables wherever they have room and at least six hours of sun.

Plant combinations are endless. Place taller plants in the center and surround with shorter varieties. For example, place a dracaena spike in the center of a 12-inch pot, three geraniums around the spike, and four vinca vines around the geraniums. The larger the pot, the more plants you can add. Try not to overfill; leave enough room for root growth.

Tomatoes suited to container growing include Better Boy, Sweet 100, and Pixie tomatoes. One staked tomato plant to a deep pot is best to allow proper space for root development. Peppers, cucumbers, and eggplant do well, too (again, one per pot). Mix basil, parsley, chives, and thyme for a contained herb garden.

PLACEMENT of containers is critical to good plant growth. The ideal spot will get six to eight hours of full sunlight and be protected from drying winds.

TYPE of containers is a matter of preference. Natural materials such as terra cotta and wood are popular, but plastic comes in many colors. Make sure containers have adequate drainage holes; without proper drainage the plants roots literally will drown and rot. Protect a wooden container from rotting by lining it with plastic that also has a few drainage holes.

SOIL should be lightweight and quick draining. A soil-less potting mix, sold at garden centers, is the best choice because it drains well, retains moisture, and is lightweight. Fill the container to within 2 inches of the rim to keep water in the pot rather than flowing over the edge.

WATERING your containers depends on weather conditions and the number of plants in the pot. Wind dries pots quickly and excessive heat causes roots to use all available water, which may require three waterings per day. Push your finger into the top layer of the soil; if it feels dry, the pot needs water. Water the container until it drains from the bottom.

FEEDING your plants frequently is critical for proper growth. Frequent watering leaches out the nutrients in the soil, so fertilize more often with half the recommended amount. Use a general water-soluble fertilizer such as a 20-20-20, half strength, at every watering. Compost also makes an excellent fertilizer.