Did you know that growing plants in containers can be fun and rewarding? If well done, container gardening can offer a lot of satisfaction by bringing out the expert gardener in you.
Even if you do not have a big garden or lots of sun exposure, with the right plan you can still grow healthy plants. In this article, I will share some tips on how to start a container garden.
With the help of some potting soil, containers and understanding your plants, you can grow a beautiful garden in no time.
Avoid Plant Panic
First and foremost you need to decide what plants you want to grow at home. Do you want to grow herbs, vegetables or fruits? Do you want to grow ornamental plants indoors or outdoors?
Make a sober decision on the kind of crops or plants you want or need BEFORE you visit the nursery.
One way of going about this is by making a list of everything that you require. You may decide to go online to see the kind of plants available before you draw up you list.
Another good source of this information is by going through plant catalogues.
We have also put together a few lists of plans you may want to grow at home
You also need to identify reputable suppliers for your crops so you are sure to get healthy plants for your garden.
Choose A Suitable Container
Next, you need the main item for your container garden… Containers.
There are 2 things to consider when buying a container to start your garden,
- The logistics- size, drainage and material
- Aesthetics- Will it achieve your desired ‘look’ in your backyard or patio
Invest in a container of the desired size and material.
Containers are a great choice to solve problems related to poor drainage, pests and diseases that are borne by the soil. A well-chosen container has the added advantage of great visual appeal to your patio or backyard.
Use different coloured containers with different textures for the complete visual effect.
For a rustic recycled look, you can use an old bathtub, old barrels, paint cans and milk jugs. These are excellent for a boho or alternative garden. Just make sure they are the right size ad can be set up with drainage.
You can also visit a local hardware or garden store to pick up some pots, bushel baskets and planter boxes if you want traditional or modern container garden.
Whether you are choosing to recycle old items as containers or buying new good quality ones, always be on the look out for rust, mould and cracks. These can impact the soil quality and balance of chemicals.
Use The Right Potting Medium
Soil in our backyards varies from suburb to city to state to country. For example here in Perth, our soil is sandy with minimal nutrients so container gardening is perfect. By choosing to grow a garden in containers you have control of the quality of soil and managing it.
It is also important to know what kind of soil you need for your plants and how best to enrich them.
I highly recommend a mix of perlite potting mix and peat moss to add to your soil base. These 2 mediums will provide essential elements such as drainage, air, insulation and improve the soil’s acidity.
Combined and mix the Perlite and moss with a complete fertilizer – which is defined as a fertilizer that contains the three main elements required for plant nutrition,
You should be able to get this at any local gardening and hardware store.
For plants that are to be watered by hand, soil polymers could be added to the mixture to help counter the effects of the wet-dry cycles. As the soil dries out, the soil polymers will supply the required moisture to the roots of the plant.
The Best Way to Water
There are two ways of watering:
- By hand
- By drip irrigation
Watering by hand can be a bit tricky because you have to be careful to never allow the soil to go completely dry.
The fool-proof way to water crops in containers is with drip irrigation using galvanized pipes. This system should be controlled by an automatic controller, which should be set in a way to ensure that it waters often enough, for the soil to remain moist. Using galvanised pipes are recommended as they won’t rust.
Each container should receive at least 3 half gallon per hour or more for the very large containers. Adjustment can also be made to take care of the conditions in areas with hot climates.
Again make sure you check what your plants need in terms of watering. Some indoor plants require very little watering.
How to Control Pests and Diseases
One of the key advantages you get by container gardening is that it will be fairly simple to control soil borne diseases like nematodes, verticillium wilt and fusarium wilt. However, should you note a problem, you should immediately seek expert advice to avoid losing your plants.
Pests are equally easy to counter.
An attack of mites, aphids or whiteflies can be dealt with by spraying them with either a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
Tomato hornworms, on the other hand, can be handpicked and destroyed.
Use fish emulsion to supplement the organic fertiliser you used at the time of planting. You can also get a lot of different kinds of Plant food at the store so check which one is best for your plants.
Alternatively, reapply the organic fertilizer as per the brand specifications.
If the garden was planted with a controlled release fertilizer, fish emulsion or plant food can still be used to provide a boost to the crops.
If you have planted vegetables or fruits, you will need to harvest the crop at some stage before it rots.
Crops should only be harvested when they are ripe. Most crops will show appropriate colour when ripe – red, orange, green or yellow depending on the crop.
- Pick beans before the seeds swell inside the pods;
- peppers when fully developed
- Squash when the fruits are fully expanded.
Once the crop is successfully harvested you must store them appropriately to ensure the plants don’t get damaged.
If you have planted non-edible plants you should investigate if and how they are best controlled, do they need to be pruned? do they need replanting or repotting as they grow? There are many things to consider.
Whatever your lifestyle, there are crops that can work for you if you decide to grow a container garden. You must be prepared to tend to them regularly if you are to increase your chances of success. It is all the hard work that makes this endeavour both exciting and rewarding.