Tips for Container Gardening Success
By Melinda Myers
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[April 29, 2017]
gardens allow you to easily dress up your balcony and patio, create
a colorful welcome for guests and keep edibles close at hand for
cooking and entertaining. They’re also a terrific way for new
gardeners to get their start. Increase your success growing
vegetables, herbs or flowers in a container with these tips.
Proper plant selection. Select the right plants
for the container and growing conditions. Closely check the plant
tags for this and more information to help with your decision.
Create attractive combinations with plants that look good together
and require the same growing conditions.
And don’t be afraid to mix flowers, herbs and vegetables. This is a
great way to have both beauty and flavor on your patio, deck or
balcony. Scour gardening magazines and the internet for free
container planting plans like those featured on the Bonnie Plants
Selecting the right container. Further increase your success by
selecting a container large enough to accommodate your plants. The
bigger the pot, the more moisture it can hold, maximizing the time
between watering. A small pot with a large plant will need to be
watered several times a day during hot weather and fertilized more
Use a container with drainage holes made from material suited to
your gardening style and climate. Even if you could provide the
exact amount of water your plants need, nature may intervene with an
extra dose or two. Drainage holes prevent water from building up in
the bottom of the pot, leading to root rot.
Those in areas with hot summers should avoid black and metal pots
that can heat up in the summer sun and damage tender plant roots.
Terra cotta pots are a traditional favorite. They are attractive,
heavy and dry out more quickly than some other materials. Glazed
pots are beautiful, but tend to be pricey and heavy to move. Plastic
pots are affordable, come in a variety of styles and don’t dry out
as quickly as terracotta. Then there’s the sturdy half whiskey
barrel. This planter is a longtime favorite, but be sure to drill
drainage holes in the bottom if it doesn’t already have them.
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Potting mix. Next, invest in a quality potting mix
that holds moisture, yet provides adequate drainage. These are
usually a combination of peat moss, compost or coir to hold
moisture, and perlite or vermiculite to aid in drainage. Leave
garden soil in the garden where it belongs, not in containers.
Watering. Check the potting soil moisture in your container gardens
at least once a day and more often if the pots are small or
temperatures high. Water thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry
and allow the excess to run out the drainage holes. This shows you
have moistened the potting mix, top to bottom, encouraging a robust
root system to develop.
Extend the time between waterings with the help of self-watering
pots. Their built-in water reservoirs provide water to the plants as
the soil dries. Fill the reservoir as needed and make sure there is
a weep hole. This allows excess water to drain out of the reservoir
instead of saturating the soil and leading to root rot.
Fertilization. Lastly, incorporate a slow release fertilizer into
the potting mix at planting. This type of fertilizer provides small
amounts of nutrients over a longer time period. Follow label
directions and make additional applications as recommended on the
As your container plants continue to thrive and you enjoy the
flavorful vegetables and herbs and gorgeous flowers they provide,
you’ll soon be looking for more spaces to incorporate container
gardens into your landscape.
[Photo provided by Bonnie Plants]
Gardening expert Melinda Myers has written over 20 gardening books,
including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook.
She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening
For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden
Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is also a columnist and
contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned
by Bonnie Plants for her expertise to write this article. Myers’
website is www.melindamyers.com.