Small container gardening is a quick and easy way to increase indoor and outdoor gardening space. Plants in containers can fill nooks, add a garden touch to decks or patios, and bring the outdoors inside to extend the growing season. You can buy traditional pots, or you can recycle and adapt utilitarian and whimsical containers to the art of growing.
Provide adequate drainage for any plants growing in small containers. Most commercial plant containers contain drainage holes. Household containers, such as plastic buckets, can be provided with drainage holes using an ice pick, awl or screwdriver and a hammer.
For glass, metal or ceramic containers, put a 2- to 4-inch layer of large gravel, marble chips or broken crockery in the bottom of the container before adding soil; this allows excess water to drain to the pan of the container for later use. Some container gardeners recycle the plastic nursery pots their plants came in, inverting them at the bottom of their larger container to provide space for excess water.
Address water-retention issues at the same time you are providing drainage. Punching holes in the bottom of your container may protect your plant from drowning but damage the surface it sits on. Commercial plant trays and saucers are an easy solution, but household items can perform the same function.
Allow enough container space for plant growth. Many commercially produced dish gardens and gift planters make a favorable impression upon purchase, but plants fail to thrive because of overcrowding.
Remember that container plants have special nutritional needs. Unlike plants in the ground, they cannot extend roots to new soil when nutrients are exhausted. Be prepared to feed and fertilize container plants on a regular basis.
Let style be your guide to creating containers. Herbs and small spring vegetables do well in old kitchen canisters, large vegetable cans and other utilitarian containers (a new life appears for the cookie jar with the broken lid). Line a basket with an old plastic salad bowl filled a quarter full with marble chips; add soil and plants for a quick summer porch garden.
Containers that may deteriorate with weather--cans that rust, painted wood, plastics that become brittle--can finish their useful lives filled with annuals. In more than one sports-minded household, this list of single-season containers has been expanded to include old sneakers.
For perennials and plants that travel indoors and out depending on the season, choose more durable materials for containers; there is still plenty of room for imagination and ingenuity.