Container gardening is the fastest growing trend in home gardening because it’s a method of growing food in any location. Container gardening enables everyone from apartment dwellers to landowners to grow fresh produce and beautify their surroundings.
These container garden care tips will help you be successful in plant growing and keep the food production and floral beauty going strong year after year.
Any container that can hold soil can be used to grow plants. Recycle food containers or other unused items around the house and transform them into unique plant containers.
Wash containers thoroughly and create drainage holes in the bottom before planting.
If containers are saved and re-used for plant growing they will need to be emptied of used soil and cleaned at the end of the growing season. The nutrients in the used soil have been depleted and will need to be replaced before it can support healthy plant growth again.
The containers will need to be cleaned to prevent the potential spread of disease or pests. A new toilet brush makes cleaning the containers easy. Spread a tarp on the ground or use a wheelbarrow and dump the used soil out of the containers, then scrub the containers with soapy water and the toilet brush. Allow containers to air dry in the sun.
Replenish Soil Nutrients
Replenish the soil nutrients for another growing season by mixing in organic compost or well-rotted cow manure into the used soil.
Feed the soil and it will feed the plants. Nutrient-rich soil will keep the food plants and flowers fed throughout the growing season and the organic matter will help prevent soil compaction.
Newspaper and a Wick
Before placing the replenished soil back into the containers, add three things to make plant care easier and plants grow better- a sheet of newspaper, a wick, and some charcoal.
Place a folded sheet of newspaper (black print only) in the bottom of the container to cover the drainage holes and prevent the soil from leaching out during watering time. The newspaper will allow excess water to drain out while keeping soil inside the container.
If the container is small, a coffee filter can used instead of a sheet of newspaper.
Poke a small hole in the newspaper that covers the bottom drainage hole and add a wick for slow water absorption. The wick can be any absorbent material, like a strip of cotton or wool. The wick needs to be long enough to reach 2-inches inside the container, with the opposite end of the wick on the outside of the container.
The containers will need to be placed in a shallow tray to promote consistent moisture and humid for plants. Place the other end of the wick in the drain tray.
Pour water in the drain tray and the wick will keep the soil moist and the plant from drying out. Makes watering easier and is especially useful if you are away from home for a few days during the growing season.
Place a few pieces of activated charcoal on the bottom of the containers on top of the newspaper before replacing the soil. The charcoal will absorb excess water, making it almost impossible to over-water container-grown plants.
Over-watering is the leading cause of plant death for both food and floral plants. The charcoal absorbs excess water and slowly releases it back into the container soil as the soil becomes dry.
Add Soil and Plants
Add the replenished soil back into the containers to within 1-inch of the top rim. Plant seeds or plants in the container and water thoroughly.
Container gardening allows you to start seeds early in the season so you can extend the harvest of food or flowers. Seeds can be planted in containers 6-weeks before the last predicted frost date in your climate if the containers are kept in a sheltered and warm location.
Most plants require 6-8 hours of bright light every day for optimum growth. Finding a location for containers that will receive that amount of sunlight can be challenging, but Mirasand can help solve the light problem.
Mirasand is an organic aggregated sand-based product that will reflect available light onto plants so even in dimly lit areas plants can grow normally and produce well. Mirasand is spread on top of the soil and can be used for container gardens or in-ground gardens.
Brightly painted background structures will also reflect light, so look for a location in front of a white exterior wall or fence to place your containers.
Bigger containers are better for container gardens and will allow for companion planting and greater plant productivity. Bigger containers also allow the plants can grow deeper roots and require less frequent watering.
Companion planting is when two or more plants are grown near each other for mutual benefits. Select companion plants carefully for use in a container garden. All plants inside of one container will need similar soil, sun, and water requirements to be the same so they can thrive together.
An example of ideal companions for container-grown vegetables is a tomato plant, oregano, basil, and a dwarf marigold. These plants have the same soil, sun, and water needs and enhance the growth and flavor of each other. The oregano and basil will enhance the tomato flavor and the dwarf marigold looks pretty while it acts as a natural pest deterrent for the tomato plant.
Sprinkle Mirasand on top of the soil to ensure all the vegetable plants are receiving adequate light.
When planting a container of flowers, select companion plants that will keep the bloom color for the longest amount of time. Plant a thriller, spiller, and filler that have similar soil, sun, and water needs. For a container filled with spring, summer, and fall beauty, plant purple fountain grass in the container center as the thriller and fall foliage color. Add gomphrena for as a filler summer and fall bloom color and tuck in a sweet potato vine near the container edge for spilling texture and color.
Top the soil with a thin layer of organic Mirasand to help provide the plants with sufficient light and you will have a created a low-maintenance three-season floral container garden.
Shade-loving plants can also be planted as companions in a container and brought indoors during the winter. Plant these shade-loving companions in one container for year-around beauty. Place one bromeliad in the center of the container as a thriller. Plant two or three color-coordinating kalanchoes around the bromeliad for spring and summer color, then fill in the remaining soil space with a trailing philodendron for all-season color.
Don’t forget to add a light layer of Mirasand on top of the soil, because even shade-loving plants need a little light every day for optimum growth.
Look for dwarf plants of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Dwarf varieties grow smaller plants but the food and flowers will be the same.
Fruit trees and garden produce all come in dwarf varieties and plants will reach a smaller mature size. The smaller size plants are ideal for container growing and the food size, flavor and texture will be the same.