What is Container Gardening?
Container gardening is popular for a variety of compelling reasons. It afford a viable alternative for gardeners with space limitations, impractical terrain or soil issues. Container gardens are easy to maintain. They are generally weed free, and can be readily moved to provide the best sunlight or shade conditions for the chosen plants. What may be a shady spot in Spring can get much fuller sun in Summer.
Containers are perfect for mint, strawberries or other aggressive plants that typically take over earth-bound gardens. Additionally, raised containers on tables or benches provide easier access for kids, or adults with difficulty bending. Moved your containers away from areas traditionally plagued by deer or other invasive animals. Following a few basic guidelines will make your foray into container gardening a success!
Drainage and Watering
Containers come in all shapes, sizes and materials including wood, plastic, resin and fiberglass. No matter the materials, it is important to have excellent drainage. Soggy soil hurts the root system and quickly leads to plant failure, so make sure to have plenty of drainage holes on the bottom or the low sides of the container so water can escape. It's also helpful to use a screening device such as Drain Smart so the soil doesn't leak out of the holes with the water. Also, keep the container slightly elevated off the ground with Pot Risers. This will further aid the drainage and increase the container's longevity.
Proper watering is also necessary for a successful container garden. Containers have much less space than a traditional ground-based ecosystems so they dry out more rapidly, especially in the heat of Summer. When it's hot, water once a day. Keep the soil moist, but not flooded or soggy. We suggest watering until it starts to come out of the drainage holes. You'll get the hang of it after a few waterings and you can always call McArdle's for advice.
Soil & Fertilizer
A large variety of plants and flowers will grow in your container, but don't use soil directly from the ground. Regular soil is generally too heavy for a container, it doesn't drain well, and it can bring unwanted garden weeds, insects and soil diseases to your plants. Instead, use a fresh mix of 2/3 organic Espoma Potting Soil and 1/3 Lobster Compost. This provides a light density for proper drainage and root growth and gives built-in nutrients and fertilization. It's also a best practice NOT to use gravel, rocks or other inert material at the bottom of the container because it restricts root growth and clogs drainage holes.
The container garden's soil gets continually flushed with watering, so add fertilizer about once every two weeks. Water soluble fertilizers work great to provide a quick release of nutrients to the plants. Seek fertilizers produced with organically sourced materials, such as Neptune's Seaweed and Fish Fertilizer — an all natural product with great results. The difference between fertilized and non-fertilized containers is dramatic: you'll get faster growth and more bountiful harvests, but be careful! Too much of a good thing will damage your plants, so follow the directions found on the packages. Avoid over-fertilizing to achieve the best results.
What Can I Grow?
Different veggies and herbs require different container sizes. Small herbs and salad greens should grow well in 6 inch deep pots; beans, beets, carrots, eggplants, peppers, swiss chard, and patio tomatoes need at least an 8-12 inch pot; while a full size tomato plant needs at least a 12 inch container to accommodate its root system. (Cornell U Extension, Chemung County May, 2001). If your container is larger, or you have a raised bed table garden, plant more than one item per container. Don't overcrowd them — they're going to grow MUCH larger than the seeds that started them! Dwarf, bush or patio varieties of veggies work best in containers, but don't be reluctant to experiment with different types of veggies and herbs that you like to eat. Try using hanging baskets for trailing plants, such as cucumbers, strawberries or even cherry tomatoes.
Spend a few minutes preparing your container, choose your plantings carefully, and water and fertilize properly to have your own "farm to table" experience from early Spring to late Fall! Container Gardening is a rewarding and easy way to grow the wide number of veggies and herbs available. It is limited only by your space and imagination. Happy Gardening!
McArdle's has a vast selection of containers, plants, soil and an eager staff to help you create the container garden of your dreams — or let us do it for you, with delivery!