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FIVE TIPS FOR GETTING STARTED WITH CONTAINER GARDENING

Mackenzie Kupfer, Avant Garden
Photograph Mackenzie Kupfer

‘Container gardening’ is definitely one of the hot concepts in gardening over the last several years. The basic idea is to plant inside of a container rather than directly in the ground.

The concept allows gardeners to have more direct control over the conditions in which their plants will grow. For example, if a plant needs more moisture, it’s easier for the gardener to make that adjustment with a small pot than with a mixed vegetable patch.

The other key advantage to container gardening is that it’s perfect for gardeners who have limited space for their gardening activities. Container gardens on balconies are common, for example. Another type of container gardening that’s gaining ground is vertical gardening, which works well even in smaller spaces. In vertical gardening, the containers are mounted on a wall or fence.

What kind of container can I use?
Container gardening allows for a very broad definition of what your growing container can be. Some people build aesthetically pleasing and beneficial raised bed gardens. Others buy hefty terracotta pots. If those options don’t work for you, there are many ways to reuse common household items. How about trying an old bucket or an empty ice cream carton? What about a milk jug sliced in half or a tin can? Absolutely any of these work for container gardening. The only requirement is that your planting container should be big enough to hold whatever you’re growing: tomato seedlings must be buried deep for a strong root structure; carrots require depth so they can reach full maturity; green onions and herbs grow well with less soil.

What should I grow in a container?
As with any garden, you can choose your favorite flower or consumable plant—just be sure to allow ample room for that variety. Flowers and ornamentals are great in containers and are often used as decorative additions to porches, patios, decks, and even indoor rooms. Hanging baskets and flower boxes can be used with fruits, vegetables and herbs, too. Just about every edible plant you can think of can grow in a container garden: corn, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce and even strawberries are great container garden options. Even vining plants like pumpkins can thrive in large pots. Just remember to train your vines to keep them out of other planters.

Should I use my own soil?
Soil from existing planter beds can be used in a container garden. That being said, one of the best parts about container gardening is that you control nearly all the growing conditions when you begin. This gives you the opportunity to choose the perfect soil for the specific plant you’re growing, whether your soil is store-bought or a mixture you’ve developed with the help of last year’s compost. Furthermore, most seed packages explain the ideal soil for each plant, which doesn’t always match what you have in your back yard.

What are the pest and disease concerns in container gardening?
Since your containers are essentially isolating your plants from the ground and other vegetation, you’ll find there are a lot fewer problems with pests, fungus, and plant diseases with a container garden. Sure, you’ll still get flying and crawling bugs, but the simple act of separating your plants into containers makes them a lot harder to find. Assuming you’ve carefully selected your soil for your container garden, weed concerns will also be minimal—your plants will have a healthy head start on any invaders. Likewise, diseases that are transmitted from plant to plant and through the soil will find it a lot more difficult to “take root” in a container garden.

Can I go organic in my container garden?
All the benefits of container gardening—moisture control, minimal pests, lack of weeds and soil selection—add up to setting the perfect conditions for going organic. So the answer is an enthusiastic “Yes!”

About Mackenzie Kupfer: Mackenzie Kupfer has a BA in Zoology and she puts it to use observing the wide variety of creatures that visit her back yard! In her spare time she also enjoys hiking and organic gardening.

Posted March 13, 2015

 


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