By Leah Allen
You can grow almost any vegetable, flower, herb, shrub, or small tree in a container. Container gardening is ideal for anyone with little or no garden space, those limited to a balcony, a small yard, or anyone in New England who has to deal with the rockiest soil on Earth. I believe my entire yard is on a rock, actually the entire state of CT is a rock for crying out loud. On my property, I have a combination of in-ground gardens, raised beds, and container gardens, and I find benefits with all. However, I am fond of the container gardens for their portability and temporary lack of commitment. There’s less cultivation and site prep with container gardens. This makes them an excellent fit for people who “aren’t there yet” with digging up land to grow some vegetables. You can grow a wide variety of edible crops in containers. I am currently growing cabbage, cauliflower, lettuces, spinach, lavender, blueberries and herbs in containers in my backyard victory garden.
It is easier to grow plants in larger containers than small ones because they hold more soil which will keep the soil moist longer. During the hot summer, small containers dry out faster leaving you to water up to twice a day to keep your plant alive. No thanks!
Larger containers offer enough root space which is essential for healthy plants. Roots can’t stretch their “legs” and take in the H2O and nutrients if there is not room. Think of yourself stretching out in a Fiat. Now think of yourself stretched out in a limo. Which one has more leg room? Make sense? Simply, when the roots are happy, the whole plant is happy!
Whichever container you chose, drainage holes are absolutely essential. Without them, your soil will become waterlogged and plants most likely will die. You want to water your containers thoroughly. Don’t wait until the soil dries out to water. There must be enough drainage hole space so the excess water can drain out. You do not want your soil draining out, just the water. To allow water to drain, but not allow soil through, you may choose to put a small piece of screen, landscaping fabric, or terra cotta shard to put at the bottom of your container. Speaking of soil, what soil is best for container gardening? POTTING SOIL! Potting soil is a soil medium that provides excellent drainage, allows plenty of air flow, and comes with a healthy dose of nutrients that’s best for potted plants. Choose potting soil with peat moss and perlite. Soil from your garden or yard is heavier and too dense for a container and won’t allow good drainage. You want potting soil for container gardening.
Ok let’s review-
What are you going to grow in your container? What kind of container will you use? As long as there’s enough root space, drainage holes, and quality potting soil, you can turn anything into a container garden. When choosing plants, you will want to grow sunshine lovers OR shade lovers in separate containers. Not both together. Different light requirements for plants thrown together will result in unhappy plants. You cannot make both plants happy if they need different environments.
There’s an old riddle that comes along with planting flowers in a container.. “ You need a Thriller, a Spiller, and a Filler”.
Let me explain: “Thriller” is the focal point. A THRILLER plant such as a geranium, purple fountain grass, or caladiums. Thrillers are usually tall upright plants with star qualities such as an interesting shape or texture, colorful foliage,etc.....
“Spiller” is a plant that SPILLS over the edge such as petunias, sweet potato vines, or creeping Jenny.
And the “Filler” is the plant with smaller flowers and leaves that FILLS in the gaps and add color such as verbena, alyssum, or impatiens.
Of course, I throw caution to the wind and have a different style all together. I plant big terra cotta pots with one variety of flower and repeat. I may add a spiller, I may not. I enjoy many pots within a monochromatic theme. For example, purple is my favorite flower color so, I have several pots with only purple pansies. I plant as many as I can properly fit inside the pots. These beautiful purple flowers adorn my front porch and look lush and colorful because they are planted in mass containers.
Container gardening can have a style all your own. Have fun with designing it, whether it be a lettuce garden or a floral showstopper, it’s yours. Plants will thrive when given the right environment; good soil, water, air flow, sunshine/shade, drainage. Own your container garden and love it!
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