Annual container garden in a terra cotta pot
image by S.F. Heron
Container gardens have graduated from beautiful displays of annual flowers to full-blown vegetable and herb gardens. Containers add flexibility to the gardener's tools, allowing portability as well as weed control. This type of gardening allows anyone to create an oasis of colored flowers, vegetables or herbs on a patio, balcony or porch. It's best to limit each container to one type of vegetable. However, you can plant a variety of herbs in a single large container. Let's look at some tips on how to grow a container garden.
Clean the container thoroughly if it has been used in previous years. Minerals from watering often form white, crusty deposits along the sides of the container. Scrape this off with a trowel and rinse the planter clean. Discard any potting soil from the previous season since this retains very few nutrients to nurture your new plants.
Check the bottom of your container for drainage holes. Water needs to flow freely through the soil and out the bottom of the pot. Pooling of water causes root rot and stunts plant growth. If the pot doesn't contain holes, punch three to five holes roughly one-fourth of an inch in size through the bottom of the pot base using a screwdriver and hammer.
Place a layer of gravel on the bottom of the planter to fill about one-third of the pot to help with drainage.
Fill the container about three-fourths full with new potting soil. Don't pack the soil tightly into the bottom of the container.
Plan how you'd like to place your plants in the container. Single vegetable plants should be placed in the center of the pot. Decorative planters with flowering annuals can be designed any way that pleases the eye. In general, taller plants should be placed toward the back or center of the container. There's no set rule since this is purely an aesthetic decision for the gardener.
Remove plants from their plastic growing containers by squeezing the pots on all sides. Place your hand over the opening of the pot and tip the plant upside down to catch the plant as it frees from the pot. You can also gently hold the stem with two fingers and wiggle the plant free from the plastic pot.
Place the plant into a shallow indentation in the soil. Fill in around the plant with plenty of potting soil. Press the soil down around the base of each plant. Soil should reach slightly above the base of the plant where the stem meets the root ball. Fill the container within one to two inches below the planter rim.
Water the container garden thoroughly. Regularly water and fertilize your container garden to help keep it looking beautiful for the entire growing season