Whether you live in a tiny city apartment or on a large country
estate, container gardening is a way to add color and the
beauty of nature to your surroundings. The three main elements of
creating successful container gardens are:
- Choosing the pots
- Getting the right planting medium
- Selecting the
In all of these elements, the key is to create a healthy growing
environment for the plant roots. For a healthy root system, water
must be able to pass quickly through the soil. As the water drains
out, air replaces it in the soil and an exchange of carbon dioxide
is made with the plant roots. In container gardening this movement
of water and air is essential to a healthy plant.
Here are some tips to help you choose from the dizzying array
of pots, troughs and boxes:
- Pick the spot for your garden first and then find a container
to suit it. For example, a quaint wooden trough would not suit
a modern balcony, nor would classic urn shaped pots be the best
choice for an informal country style garden. In addition to style
considerations, give attention to size and proportion issues.
- Consider the weight of the container Ė not only empty, but
filled with wet soil and plants. If there is a strong prevailing
breeze across your outdoor space, the container must be heavy
enough to prevent it from tipping over. On the other hand, the
structure on which the containers are placed must be able to support
them (so a large concrete trough would be less than ideal for
a balcony or wooden porch, and a 6 ft wooden trough would need
a VERY strong ledge to make it a suitable window box). Since a
30-gallon planter can weigh more than 200 pounds once itís filled,
think about either planting the container in place, or setting
it on plant casters or dollies.
- Clay/terracotta pots are attractive and complement a wide
range of foliage and flowering plants. They are the traditional
potting container because, in addition to draining well, they
wick moisture through their sides. This provides a drier root
environment, which means less opportunity for root diseases. However,
it also means more frequent watering is needed. If you tend to
underwater, use terra cotta pots for only drought tolerant plants,
or choose another type of container. On the down side, clay pots
can be heavy and must be protected in colder climates during the
winter to prevent cracking. A glazed clay container is non-porous,
creating a moisture barrier. Because this will not allow the root
system to breathe, glazed pots are best used with a regular terracotta
pot inside of them.
- Plastic pots are inexpensive, lightweight and functional,
and come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. If you
donít like the look of plastic, apply a faux finish to fool the
eye, or slip the plastic pots inside other containers. With the
proper soil mix and attentive watering, plants do well in plastic
pots. If you tend to underwater your plants, plastic is a better
choice than terra cotta for you. However, plastic containers may
need to be weighted down to stay in place on windy days.
- Wood containers look good in naturalistic environments, and
most plants do well in them. Wood drains better than plastic but
does not have the wicking advantage of clay, and wood containers
can be heavy when planted. Choose containers made of hardwood,
such as redwood, cedar or cypress, which are less susceptible
to rot over time. Lining wood containers with heavy-duty plastic
bags will give you added protection from moisture, but you must
remember to provide proper drainage.
- Metal containers can be used successfully in many modern settings.
Galvanized containers are the best for planting Ė they wonít leach
rust or chemicals into the soil. Unless the container was designed
as a planter, youíll need to add drainage holes to the bottom
of the pot, or slip other pots inside it.
- Found items can add variety and whimsy to your container garden.
If youíre going to plant directly in such items as watering cans,
old boots, teapots or wheelbarrows consider drainage and air movement
around the roots of the plants.
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