Container gardening has many advantages over traditional methods of gardening and landscaping your lawn.
You can experiment with color, ensure that your plants have great soil, and raise the garden to a comfortable level for weeding, fertilizing, and pruning.
Containers full of bright flowers, lovely foliage, and colorful vegetables can fill empty spots on your deck or front steps, or create borders and privacy screens.
Choosing A Container
Choosing the right type of container is an important first step. Drainage holes will help keep the roots from sitting in water and provide aeration for healthy root growth.
If you have a solid-bottomed ceramic container you want to display, use inexpensive plastic flower pots with drainage holes as liners, or place one or two inches of gravel in the bottom of the container. Set containers that have holes on the bottom on top of a few bricks to promote drainage.
When choosing a container, consider where it will be placed. Will the planter receive full sunlight or will it be in a shady or partially shady spot? Will you want to move the container from one spot to another or will it stay put?
Containers in full sun will heat up and dry out more quickly. Wood is an excellent container material that has good water retention. Hardwoods are more resistant to rot but other woods can be used if treated with a copper naphthalene preservative.
Avoid using woods treated with creosote or Penta wood preservatives, as these contain chemicals that are toxic to plants as well as humans.
Terra cotta containers are attractive but dry out quickly in full sun. Fiberglass and resin containers are light and durable, and many are molded to look like natural materials. Plastic containers are lightweight and conserve water well but the UV rays of the sun will eventually break down plastic.
Concrete planters can be attractive but are extremely heavy. If you want to use a heavy container that may need to be moved for convenience, place it on a dolly to save breaking your back, or the container!
Balancing The Plant Size
Balance the size of the plant with the container; a tall plant will need a container not more than twice its height, and the fullness of the plant should not be more than 1-1/2 times the width of the container.
Plants that grow upright will need a wide base for balance. Sprawling plants will need a deep pot so they may drape over the edge.
Choosing Plant Types & Soil
You may choose to plant one type of plant in each container or put many different plants in the same pot for a colorful display. When mixing plant varieties, be sure to choose varieties that have similar watering, feeding, and sunlight requirements.
Use a good potting soil, not garden soil, to fill your container. Potting soil will not compact like earth, will retain moisture longer, and will be free from pests.
Purchasing premixed potting soil can be expensive if you are filling several large containers; you may choose to mix your own from equal parts of peat moss, garden loam, and builders’ sand.
Many premixed potting soils will contain fertilizer, although some do not, but eventually watering will wash the fertilizer away through the drainage holes. Since the roots won’t be able to grow into additional soil to look for nutrients you will need to fertilize your plants regularly.
Watering Your Container Garden
Container gardens dry out quickly and will probably need watering at least once a day, and perhaps twice on very hot days. Grouping containers of plants will provide some shade to the soil and help retain moisture. Consider growing drought-resistant plants that can tolerate the intensified heat and dry soil.
One of the luxuries of container gardening is that as blossoms fade, the plants can easily be replaced with new ones whose blooming season has begun. By carefully mixing plants that bloom at different times you can enjoy your beautiful container garden from early spring to late fall!