Follow the rules, and you’ll see that growing things in containers is easy (although not care-free). The four basic things you need for success are a good pot, great potting soil, fertilizer and a decent memory so you don’t forget to water.
Two inexpensive containers an a few 4-inch potted plants make “instant landscaping.”
Photo Credit: Joe Seals
Interesting shapes in containers and plants are great.
There are so many kinds of containers out there, so have fun picking one. Traditional gardeners tend to prefer the age-old look and feel of terra-cotta. (Some may argue that these types of pots are also easier to grow things in because the clay tends to regulate the temperature and moisture content of the soil.) But keep in mind that terra-cotta containers can be a problem in areas where freezes are common, since frozen water in the porous clay can crack – or even explode – a pot. Some stoneware and ceramic pots are dense enough that they’re “freeze-proof,” though, and plastic pots won’t freeze either.
Whatever kind of pot you choose, make sure there are drainage holes on the bottom of it so excess water can run out. Some gardeners add a layer of rocks or gravel – even foam peanuts – to the bottom of their pots to speed drainage, but it’s not really necessary. It’s much more important to get the best potting soil you can find – one that drains quickly, lasts a long time (meaning it doesn’t break down into a compacted block) and maybe has some nutrient value to help plants get off to a quick start.
Most potting mixes contain organic matter, such as peat moss or ground bark, which hold onto moisture and nutrients. They also contain inorganic things such as perlite to help drainage and keep the mix from compacting. These potting soils that drain quickly need to be watered often – even once a day when it’s really hot out there. Frequent watering also washes out fertilizer, which is a good thing because salts in fertilizer can build up and cause problems.
That said, it’s best to fertilize frequently but with less than the recommended amount so you don’t shock the plant. Liquid fertilizers work best in cool weather, but slow-release fertilizers are easier to use. They’re sprinkled on the surface and meter out small amounts each time you water.
Container gardening can be fun and rewarding – just always keep in mind that pot-bound plants are completely dependant on you. Unlike the plants living in your garden, container plants can’t go out searching for more water and nutrients if they need them. With some good old-fashioned TLC, though, you can keep your contained beauties growing happy and healthy.