A Quick and Simple Guide to Container Gardening

Landscape designA viable solution for those who enjoy gardening but are unable to grow and take care of a full sized garden because of limited space, poor soil conditions, or lack of time, container gardening is becoming one of the most popular gardening techniques not just among apartment dwellers, but also among those who have the space to grow an in-ground garden.

While there are a number of reasons people choose to grow plants in pots, the low maintenance needs and the ease of taking your favorite plants with you to a new location have contributed primarily to the increasing popularity of container gardening. So, if you are considering adding a little greenery to your landscape design or grow edible vegetables in your backyard, this post will help you get acquainted to container gardening and guide you through the entire process right from site selection to fertilization.

Growing Plants in Containers

Container gardening may sound like one of those quick and simple landscaping ideas that require little effort and time. While this is true to some extent, there are a number of factors to keep under consideration when it comes to contain gardening. These include:

1. Amount of Sunlight

Landscaping ideasWhile you can move potted plants anywhere you like, it is important that you consider the amount of sunlight needed by different plants to ensure their survival and optimal growth. If you are growing vegetables, your containers will require 5 to 6 hours of sunlight on average. However, this doesn’t stand true for leafy vegetables that can tolerate more shade. Others, such as carrots, beets, tomatoes, and eggplants will need more than 8 hours of sunlight each day. If you are growing flowers, the needs may vary depending on the varieties you aim to grow.

2. Type of Container

When selecting containers, keep two factors under consideration — set, drainage, and material.

  • Size — You do not want to select the ones that have a narrow opening as they will make repotting very difficult. Similarly, those with restricted root area may dry out very quickly, affecting plant’s growth.
  • Drainage — Make sure that the pots you select have adequate drainage. Place pots on bricks or blocks to allow easy drainage of water.
  • Material — There are three types of containers that are most commonly use in gardening — plastic, ceramic, and clay pots. Each of these has its own unique disadvantages. For example, plastic pots are susceptible to damage by sunlight and may require repotting of the plants, while clay pots may dry out rapidly and require more frequent watering.

3. Selection of Plants

This is the most challenging yet exciting part of container gardening. While it’s easy to walk into a nursery and choose plants that feature the most striking colors, keeping the following factors under consideration is essential when selecting plants for container gardening.

  • How big is my pot? — You want to get plants that are in proportion to the size of your pot. Selecting too tall or too short plants not only influences the visual appeal of your garden, but also impacts plant growth.
  • How much sunlight does the plant need? — Determine how much sunlight your pots will get and choose plants accordingly. Some of the edible plants that require full sun include beans, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, spinach, tomato, turnips, onions, and eggplants.
  • How much time am I willing to dedicate? — If you are often out of the town or you are unable to water plants regularly due to any other reason, you should look for the ones that require less frequent care. Or alternatively, you may consider installing an automatic drip irrigation system to maintain adequate soil moisture levels.

4. Container Soil Mix

Contrary to what most people do, you cannot use garden soil to fill the containers. Garden soil is often infected with fungi and other diseases, as well as slow to drain. To ensure optimal growth of your container plants, you need a high-quality soil mix that ensures:

  • Optimal Drainage and Moisture Retention — Because the soil column in containers is relatively shallow than garden soil, it must have a looser structure to allow adequate flow of water.
  • Plenty of Pore Space — The soil should have both large and small pore spaces (macro and micro pores) to allow optimal water drainage and moisture retention. For drought tolerant plants, such as cactuses, you will need a soil mix that has plenty of macropores. On the other hand, for plants that require more moisture, such as lavender and rosemary, you will need soil that offers good drainage but also retains moisture.
  • Lack of Contamination — An in-ground garden is a complete ecosystem that contains both disease-causing and disease-fighting organisms. Using the same soil for container gardening can disrupt this balance and result in a variety of plant diseases. Therefore, always opt for a soil mix that has been specifically formulated for the purpose of container gardening.

5. Fertilizing

Potted plants have more frequent fertilization needs because watering the plants may cause the fertilizer to wash out from the soil, resulting in the deficiency of essential nutrients. It is recommended to fertilize potted plants using a water soluble fertilizer every two to four weeks. When selecting a fertilizer mix, pay attention to the numbers mentioned on the package. Fertilizers that come with a 10:10:10 formulation contain equal quantities of:

  • Nitrogen (for leaves)
  • Phosphorus (for flowers and fruits)
  • Potassium (for roots)

When one of the numbers is higher than the other, it means that the fertilizer has been specifically designed for promote more rapid growth of leaves, roots, or flowers.

Container gardening is certainly a viable solution for those with limited time or space. However, to make the most of your decision to plant a container garden, it is important that you partner with a landscaping expert who can help you select the right plants that will complement your home’s landscape and enhance its curb appeal.

To know more about container gardening, please contact Robinson Environmental Design at 310 387 3548 or email at info@designrobinson.com.