When we don't have the space or inclination for a large garden, the solution is learning how to garden in containers.
What if the soil in our yard is not satisfactory? We may not want to bend over to pull weeds. Our yard may be shady, except for the stairs and deck.
We can grow in containers on our balcony, up the side of the steps, in hanging pots, on the patio, our deck or anywhere we can fit a container.
Vegetables grow the best with a minimum of six hours of sun per day. Shade vegetables will grow with as little as two hours on sunlight. But two to six hours is best for most vegetables.
Flowers and herbs in a container, also like two to six hours of sun per day. There are of course many exceptions.
Some flowers like Impatiens will grow in full shade. They actually do better with less sun. Roses need six hours or more in order to grow and flower well.
Some people do container gardening out of necessity. If our property has poor drainage, gardening in containers is the answer. Or if we have poor soil, learning how to garden in containers solves that problem. When we put good soil in a container and our plants will grow wonderfully.
Originally I planted some fruit and
vegetables in tubs in the backyard to keep the dog from running over the
vegetables. Then I realized how much easier it is for a senior to take care of
plants above ground level. It's much easier tending plants in containers.
We can grow vegetables, flowers and herbs in just about anything that will hold soil. We may use pots, pans, buckets, tubs, whiskey barrels, livestock water tanks, an old sink, a bath tub or a wheel barrel. We may even build our own containers, such as raised beds.
If the container is used, find out how it was used previously. We don't want to plant our vegetables in a container that contained toxic things like paint, pesticides or other chemicals.
Five gallon buckets are great for container vegetable gardening. They are readily available and they are easy to move around with their handy handles.
Small containers for flowers will be easy to move around. If they are large containers that will need to be moved, consider putting them on wheels or casters.
Use a 1/2" or 3/4" auger bit and drill several holes in the bottom of a bucket. A larger tub should have at least a 1" hole about every six inches. Some people like to drill the holes on the sides, just above the floor of the container.
Some of the clay or ceramic pots for sale don't have any drain holes in the bottom. Use a masonry bit to make their drain holes. Drilling into a ceramic pot with a regular drill bit may cause it to crack, so use a masonry bit.
The container's soil must both drain well and be able to retain moisture. It should not compact and become soggy causing the roots to rot.
Bagged topsoil does not work well in containers. The natural soil from our yard does not work well in containers. It's too heavy and does not drain well.
We may improve the drainage of natural soil or bagged topsoil. Mix them with plenty of organic matter such as compost, peat moss or vermiculite.
Some people make their own containers soil mixes. But if you have a limited number of containers, your best bet is to purchase commercial 'potting soil'.
Almost any plants that grow in the ground can be grown in containers.
It's fun to add color spots in our yard with containers of flowers. The container may be stationary or it may be a hanging basket.
Even if we live in a third story apartment, we can put out a hanging basket of flowers to feed the hummingbirds.
Today the plant breeders are coming up with more compact sized vegetable plants. Any of the leafy vegetable such as lettuce, spinach and kale, etc. are naturals for a container.
The larger vegetables like tomatoes and squash now have compact, bush or dwarf varieties that fit very well into a container.
The sprawling vegetables like cucumbers, winter squash and even the melons have bush varieties suitable for container vegetable gardening.
The vine-like plants like cucumbers or beans may be planted next to a trellis, a fence or grown on tomato cages.
We can grow fruit in containers, too. Strawberries, figs, bananas, blueberries, raspberries plus more, will all grow in containers.
Plants need light, water and some fertilizer to grow and prosper in containers. We covered light already, above.
As a general rule container plants require daily watering, with some variations.
Large containers are watered less often. Small containers don't have as much soil. They dry out faster and more than likely will need daily watering.
During hot or windy days, the soil can dry out very quickly. So the container will probably require extra watering.
During cool or cloudy weather, we don't have to water so often.
How does a plant get its nutrients from of the soil?
A plant picks up the nutrients when are in solution. Dry nutrients have no way to get up into the plant.
Container plants are watered more often than plants in the ground. The constant watering washes the nutrients out of the container.
When we planted our container garden originally, there may have been time-released fertilizer in the mix. Maybe we added compost or rotted manure. These nutrients last from 3 to 4 months.
So, after 3 or 4 months we need to give the plant more nutrients - fertilizer.
Since the plant can only pick up nutrients that are in solution. Using a soluble fertilizer is the way how to garden in containers.
In order to prevent burning the plants, make sure the soil is moist before applying the fertilizer.
fertilizer will go into the plant for immediate use. This keeps our plant happy and healthy.