31 August 2012, by gj
There are some wonderful gardeners out there who grow solely in containers, I admire them.
Our experience is less, but growing in containers has allowed us to grow more invasive plants, as well as some items we otherwise couldn’t in our area.
Here are a few things we’ve learned that are good to know if containers are going to be a part or all of your garden:
1. Use the right soil. Containers need something light, so that it will not get packed down, and so the roots have freedom to roam. Garden centers carry an assortment of potting soils to choose from. My Dad always mixed his own- a blend of vermiculite, sphagnum moss, and perlite, that he would add top soil, compost and/or fertilizer (depending on the plant) to. We use a mix called BM1 in our large raised beds, also adding the compost and fertilizer as needed.
2. Containers need more frequent watering. Mulching can help this, but by their very nature containers do not hold on to water as well as the ground does. Check your containers often. I once heard the suggestion, and I apologize I don’t remember from whom, to water your containers until the water comes out the bottom. When you’re done with all your containers, go back and do it again. This gives the soil a chance to absorb more moisture.
When you are incorporating containers into a larger garden setting, grouping them helps with watering. We learned the hard way that a container out of sight is also out of mind. Sorry Sunchokes.
3. Choose wisely.This has two components:
a. If you’re growing exclusively in containers- choose plants and plant varieties that do well in containers. Adjectives that describe a smaller stature, like ‘Fairy’ and ‘Baby’ are often good clues that the plant will be better suited to a container. A good seed catalog or website, like Johnny’s Seeds will clearly indicate which plants do better in tight spots.
b. If you’re mixing it up- you may want to plant some ‘invasives’ in containers, we do a lot of that here. If that’s the case remember they still have drainage holes, and their roots can grow through them. Really.
We plant the more invasive plants, like horseradish, in large barrels that sit on top of flat stones.
Some plants can also flower and re-seed themselves, mint and marjoram are quite prolific here. For years I thought Dill was a perennial. These we plant in large pots.
4. Keep them light- Unless you are planting a perennial and placing it in a permanent location, you’re going to need to deal with the weight of the pot and its contents at some point. Using a product like ‘Ups a Daisy‘ or simply placing a small upside down plastic pot inside you container before adding the soil will help keep it light.
Bonus- this also makes for better drainage. Which reminds me-
5. Give them good drainage- Of course you’ll use pots that have drain holes in them, but if those holes get blocked, drainage could be compromised. This can happen from within, if the soil fills the holes in. This can also happen on the outside, if you place the pot in such a way that the holes get blocked (on soil or mulch for example).
Many gardeners use pebbles, glass stones, even pieces of broken pots to line the bottom of their containers and hep with drainage. Depending on what the pot is made of, you can also drill a few holes along the outside near the bottom.
Categories: container gardening