Container Gardening Tips

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What types of pots should I use for container gardening?

Going to Pot?

You figure you can just use your mom's old earthenware jars to plant your alyssum. Sorry, but that's like wearing your mom's clothes--they may not work for you, especially if you're container gardening in a hot climate. Contrary to what your mom told you, the sun is good for you--plants in a container garden need at least five to six hours. Container gardening tip from Dad: Cheap plastic pots and terracotta pots dry out easily. So which pots do you choose for your container garden design?

  • Shirley Brenon, gardening enthusiast and writer of a weekly gardening column for the Palm Springs, California newspaper THE DESERT SUN, warns that there are different grades of terracotta pots, and terracotta pots can rot.
  • Brenon says that the market features lightweight pots with resistance to UV rays, which are a good choice. She says that sturdy large pots are too heavy for gardeners unless you have a dolly.
  • As with raised vegetable gardening, cedar and redwood are terrific for a container vegetable gardening--check for creosote, though.
  • Mom always said not to have a narrow mind--a container with a narrow opening, like that earthenware jar, is a poor choice for a container garden.
  • Clay pots leak! Line them with peat moss and compost, and monitor for yellow leaves and roots, a sure sign your plants aren't getting enough moisture. Mom always said to drink lots of fluids!
  • We've mentioned rubber tires as containers--plants in tires, especially red peppers, get dehydrated easily, so water frequently--line the space under the tires with newspapers and garden cloth.

You don't like your mom's hair or her fruitcake, so don't be quick to adopt her methods of gardening. But you can adopt her advice.

   
Which vegetables can I plant in a container vegetable garden?

Carrots or Cucumbers?

You've been told you have a green thumb. Sadly, your lawn isn't green--your lawn is rocky and small. Container vegetable gardening can let you raise the lettuce without taking out a loan. What types of vegetables will fit in your container garden design?

Quick-maturing vegetables are best--we like leaf lettuces to line your window box. Fill the center with snap beans--here's a handy container gardening tip: build trellises that won't obstruct the view from your window. Your snap beans will need support.

If you like thinking outside the box, you can plant tomatoes in a container garden tub--agains, you'll need a tepee frame or trellis. When container gardening with vegetables, know the growing season--you'll need to harvest and store your vegetables quickly, especially if you follow the principles of succession planting.

Your green thumb is itching to garden and pluck some silver leaf beet. Go forth, be fruitful, er, veggie-ful, in your container garden.

   
How do I move my containers around easily?

Moveable Feast

Everything is mobile now--why shouldn't your plants be? You're container gardening and your tomatoes are chattering on a cell phone. Uh-oh. Just kidding! Mobility is one advantage of creating a container garden. Shirley Brenon, gardening enthusiast and writer of a weekly gardening column for the Palm Springs, California newspaper THE DESERT SUN, says container plants are easily moveable.

One woman Brenon has interviewed grows tomato plants in a redwood container and arranges the container on a dolly or other platform with wheels. She can move her plants to follow the sun, especially since Palm Springs temperatures are surprisingly variable.

Flowers such as impatiens have to be moved when the 80-degree desert temperature drops and the sky becomes overcast. Buy some dollies from a home improvement store and start moving your plants around. But if your tomatoes use up your wireless minutes, take the phone away.

   
Do I need a big fancy decorative pot for my container garden?

Dressing Up Container Gardens For Less

Growing veggies and flowers because you're strapped for cash? When you're facing a stack of bills, seeing a growing garden can lift your mood. You'd like to have a Grecian urn for your container garden, but right now you don't have two drachmas to rub together. Not to worry--the ancient Greeks were resourceful, and while an elaborate container garden design in an urban courtyard was de rigueur for the upper crust, for the most part the Greeks frowned on ornamentation.

If all you have on hand are the large black nursery pots you used when you lived in the suburbs in a previous life, here's a container vegetable gardening and container gardening tip. HGTV's Scott Daigre advises covering a vegetable container garden or container garden with flowers in burlap sacks so the pot stays cool and looks cool. Pour some wine, plant some mustard greens or mustard spice (which Hippocrates favored), and live like an ancient Greek on a budget in your metropolis.

   
Are there vegetables designed just for container gardening?

Designer Vegetables for Container Gardening

You've heard plenty of dispute over genetically modified foods, and you frown on crossbreeding dogs--puggles, for example. You'll take good old fashioned regular veggies or container vegetable gardening.

Not to upset your ethics, but here's a container gardening tip: You can plant veggies especially designed for container gardening without feeling like Viktor Frankenstein or Dr. Moreau. Or Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Celebrity gardener Paul James likes to plant baby broccoli, baby carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. Although some container garden experts frown with a naturalist's ferocity on planting melons and other spreading plants in a container garden or even a raised bed, master gardeners typically know what they're doing.

If the idea of such selection makes you nervous, you can go for a nice rustic wooden basket and plant some aturally spreading spearmint or lettuce. We don't want you screaming "It's aliiiiive" or "Soylent Green is PEOPLE" at the top of your lungs so that you're mobbed by GMO opponents.

   
Do I need a small container for container gardening?

No Space? No Lawn? No Problem!

You hoped to have a House Beautiful garden, but your domicile is an apartment with a balcony. No problem--thanks to container gardening, you can have a beautiful garden in limited space. But here's a container gardening tip: don't limit yourself to thinking small. While you can do "dish gardens" in your apartment, a container garden will dry out quickly if you use a pot that has less than 15 quarts capacity. Also, you'll need deep pots for container vegetable gardening with deep rooted vegetables.

Your container garden design won't depend so much on your balcony space as on the sun and wind conditions, also the types of plants you want to grow. Don't let the small space limit you--anyone can have a magazine spread garden on several acres of land, but growing hot peppers on a balcony in Los Angeles? Now that's beautiful.

   
How do I make sure my container gardens drain well ?

Container Garden Drainage

Your crock pot bubbles over if you put too much water in it--this is your first time cooking away from home. You were never domestically inclined. But you're planting a garden because, like knitting on movie sets, it's the cool thing to do. Whether you have a hanging container garden or a fiberglass tub, your container garden design needs to take drainage into account. Also, while you need to water a container garden more frequently than a raised bed garden, you don't need to water on a schedule, every day, three times a day.

Shirley Brenon, gardening enthusiast and writer of a weekly gardening column for the Palm Springs, California newspaper THE DESERT SUN, says, "Stick your finger in the pot. If it's damp, you don't need to water." Brenon says that most people make the mistake of over-watering and sticking to a rigid schedule. Some other container gardening and container vegetable gardening hints for the household hopeless:

  • Hanging baskets need to retain water because the air will dry them out faster--container gardening tip: line them with peat moss, though master gardener Tony Avent derides it as overused and prefers composted leaves. If your hanging basket does leak from frequent watering, place it above another container garden.
  • Place the fiberglass, plastic and wooden containers on blocks for better drainage.
  • GardenGuides.com recommends that holes in container garden boxes or tubs be at least 1/2 inch across for adequate draining.
  • Line containers with newspapers to drain plants and keep away weeds or pests.

Your garden is growing, your stew is passable...it's not so bad doing this domestic business by yourself.

   
How dfo I prevent plants from overgrowing in a container garden?

Overpopulation in Container Gardens

You can't have too many fresh vegetables, right? Wrong--especially if you store them and don't eat them. Your refrigerator will be overcrowded. The same principle holds true for container garden design. When you're planting vegetables, you need to work with the space you have. Here's an organization container gardening tip or two:

  • When container vegetable gardening, use squash, tomatoes and cucumbers--hybrid compact cars are good for the environment but they don't always work, but hybrid compact vegetables succeed every time.
  • HGTV's container gardening expert Scott Daigre suggests that you trim plants with an excess of foliage after you've just planted them. If you trim away the lower leaves on a tomato plant, you'll make more room for the plant to grow--be sure to root it deep in the soil.
  • Beware of competition for resources! Don't plant beans and tomatoes together in a container garden--their spreading vines will duke it out. Harvest those vegetables quickly and slice or dehydrate them so you can easily store them, or better yet, eat them--the surest way to prevent vegetable overcrowding. After all, fresh vegetables are wonderful for you.

   
How often should I fertilize my vegetables?

Vegetable Fertilization

Feed me, Seymour! Your plants may not need you to open a vein, but like Audrey in "Little Shop of Horrors," container garden veggies are hungry little beasts. Container gardening potting mixes drain water rapidly, so nutrients leak continuously even if you have prepared the soil with compost.

A container gardening tip: Compost regularly, even if your soil is all compost. The other solution to this constant plant hunger is to add fertilizer regularly. Create your container garden design so that you can easily draw up a fertilization schedule.

Five ravenous boxes may be as difficult to please as a plant hit with cosmic rays! Just as fish oil is good for you, fish emulsion is your friend in container gardening and particularly in container vegetable gardening. But if your plant starts advising you to become homicidal, it's time to toss the plants and take up stamp collecting.

   
Do I use soil for my container garden or just compost?

Soils and Container Gardening

Dirt may be cheap, but sometimes you don't want to go on the cheap. Using just dirt from the driveway is like taking a first date to McDonald's when you're over twenty-one. However, even rich topsoil may not work in container gardening.

GardenGuides.com recommends using compost in your container garden design, since a container garden needs to drain quickly. Compost retains enough moisture in the roots when you're container vegetable gardening, but compost also drains easily without leaking nutrients. Check to see whether you need to add sand--plants such as catnip and pitcher plants, for example, thrive best when you add a sand mixture to the soil. Another container gardening tip from GardenGuides.com:

Use soilless potting mixtures, available from plant shops. No matter what container garden soil you use, leave a two-inch space for mulching. You don't have to break the bank on your container garden soil, just as you don't have to order $400 Beaujolais on your first date. Compost is usually free, and soilless potting mixes are reasonable. It really is the thought that counts--your plants, like your date, will appreciate planning and creativity.

   
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