Sara’s Summer Garden Series: Tips for Container Garden Success
Posted May 31 2013 10:00am
I used to think because I live in a townhome I couldn’t have a garden. It was my husband who convinced me otherwise shortly after we moved in and we’ve been gardening ever since. I am fortunate enough to have a large patio, but you can plant a container garden no matter how much space you have. A container garden can be anything from a pot or two of your favorite summer vegetables like tomatoes or peppers to an herb garden hanging on a window pane to an array of flowers and plants to an elaborate set-up of pots and troughs. It just depends and versatility is one of my favorite things about container gardening. I have learned, over the years, there are a few things that can make or break a container garden. And, even though I still have much to learn, here are a few of my tips for container garden success.
First things first, choose a container for your plants. And, keep in mind anything can be a container! You can use pots (I look for pots and planters on sale), wheelbarrows, old watering cans, hanging baskets, troughs – anything that can hold a decent amount of soil can substitute for a container. This is where creativity comes in to truly make it your own. Someday, I would like to make an herb garden out of mason or glass jars. If you’re not sure where to start, visit your local dollar or grocery store and pick up a bunch of pots that you like.
Make sure your container has adequate drainage or the water will accumulate at the bottom of the container with nowhere to go and eventually the roots of your plants will rot. If you do not have (or cannot drill) holes in the bottom of the container, put some gravel in the bottom to help filter the water. This has worked wonders for us in the past.
Use a high-quality potting soil when planting your container garden. It is important to use a soilless mix because it is lightweight and allows the roots of the plants to grow freely. We make our own potting soil now. I have used regular potting soil, but it is heavy and retains a lot of water so I prefer what we make or a soilless type. You must use some kind of potting soil that is formulated for containers, not top soil like you would put in a flower bed. You can find all types of soil at your local gardening center or superstore.
As you begin purchasing your plants, make sure you pay attention to the information cards that come with them. While it is beneficial and even fun to plant multiple varieties of plants or vegetables in the same container, you want to be careful of the growing conditions like sunlight. Keep sun, partial sun and shade plants separate to maximize growth. One good thing with a container garden is that you can move the entire pot if the plants are receiving too little or not enough sun.
Be creative! If you are planting flowers, you can plant some bold flowers or spikes in the middle of a container and some hanging flowers around the edges for a dramatic look. If you are planting vegetables or herbs, you can do the same thing by making a salad or “regional” planter. For example, my Italian planter has a tomato plant in the middle, sweet banana peppers and romaine lettuces around the outside.
Remember, your container garden depends on you more than a regular garden. Be sure to fertilize it regularly with a 20-20-20 fertilizer or compost. Roots in a container cannot search for water, so you will need to check your plants daily to see if they need watered. My garden gets watered every evening in the hot and sunny summer months. If it is especially hot, I may water them twice a day because my patio does not get much shade.
If you are wondering if it is too late to start your garden, you still have time! Pick up come pots or gather up some unused containers from the garage, soil and plants that are already established and then get started now using my tips for container garden success.
What about you? Do you have a container garden? What tips can you share that make your’s a success?