Container Gardening Basics
Container gardening is a skill that every gardener should have. In today’s world when sky scrapers are on a rise and open spaces are shrinking away fast, we must continue gardening in the limited space we have. Containers, naturally, become a solution to this problem.
One can very easily grow an endless variety of plants in pots. I am often asked if we can grow fruit trees in pots or if we can plant huge vegetable vines in pots. My answer always is, ‘’ you can grow anything in pots’. This is the reason why I started the Crops in Pots community of urban farmers.
Speaking about growing crops in pots, all you need to consider is the season, right size of the pot and availability of sun light. It is pretty much the same for growing ornamental plants; however, ornamental plants will spend a long time in one pot while vegetable plants or seasonal plants will need to be replaced.
What kind of container should I use?
The selection can be based on aesthetic value, practicality or both. Here are some options easily available now days.
Terracotta or clay pots
These look classic and new designs add interest to the garden. These are heavier to move around but are the cheapest option. Terracotta pots also tend to crack in winters and excess watering also breaks them apart. Since it is eco-friendly, the pot can be replaced without regret.
Made from recycled plastics, these light weight containers may suit gardeners who do not have the man power to move around their pots. These days they resemble terracotta pots in appearance. Plastic pots are expensive than terracotta, not commonly available, not a eco-friendly option but they do have a long life, they are easy to handle for people with health issues or for roof tops that can’t host heavy containers.
Making one your self is the cheapest way to get the look that you desire and the exact size that fits your garden space. Although, wooden planters are the latest gardening trend but they do tend to rot or swell very soon. The only way to prevent this is to either get them painted or to place a layer of old panaflex or plastic inside to prevent the wood from soaking water. Remember, you will need to put drainage holes in plastic as well.
Wooden crates can be used in a similar way but they do tend to have a short life. I have included many wooden planters on my rooftop garden in which I grow all my vegetables.
These are the most popular containers around the world, especially when you want to bring your plants indoors. Metal do not get cold in winters but heats up in summer. Besides being expensive, it also erodes.
Weaved with coconut husk around a plastic basket, the most commonly available basket adds interest in the garden. These are also made using metal and have a more sophisticated appearance. I cant say about other parts of the world, but in Karachi, crows take away all the strings of the basket to make their nests and soon we are left with unappealing looking plastic baskets.
With a little do.it.yourself spirit you can weave your baskets again!
Grow bags are perfect for growing potatoes and other crops, re-used plastic bottles for a vertical garden arrangement, old tires for planting bigger plants, coconut shells for plants that need moisture, jars for keeping water plants alive, large drums to grow trees, old bath tub as your grow bed, tin cans for indoor plants and much more.
Some tips and tricks for container gardening
- Chose right soil mix for each container type and plants that you are planning to grow. For example, light weight soil mix that drains well will suit plastic containers, while water retaining soil mix will suit terracotta pots.
- Place a tray under the pots to avoid water spills and seepage. This also helps in keeping roots moist.
- Feed your plants regularly and as needed.
- Don’t be afraid to change pots location each season to catch or avoid sunlight. But don’t do this too frequently as plants like to stay in their micro climate.
- Remove infected plants to avoid pest buildup.
- Always practice natural or organic farming when it comes to feeding your plants and pest control.
- Chose pots that are big enough for roots to grow.
- Mulch your pots with natural material to avoid weeds and to retain moisture.
These simple tricks can help you success at container gardening. Experiment with new planters and make the most of the space that you have.