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Container Gardening go back to thousands of years in ancient China where Bonsai are originating, and to one of the Seven Wonder of the world, the Babylon Hanging Garden !

The modern gardeners use all types of materials to make their own containers for their gardening needs. Woods, stoneware, and plastic are the most common types. Wood are the most natural and blend into the garden seamlessly, while stoneware provides colors to the mix, plastic is less expansive but seemed to be odd in the natural setting. Excellent for urban gardening where space is limited, use them as rooftop or balcony garden container, where weight is a concern.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Watering

Containers

Fertilizing

Potting Soil

General Care

Planting

Indoor Container Gardening

Introduction

If you don't have space for a vegetable garden, consider raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers. A window sill, patio, balcony, or doorstep can provide sufficient space for a productive container garden. Problems with soil-borne diseases, nematodes, or poor soil can also be overcome by switching to container gardening.

Grow vegetables that take up little space such as carrots, radishes, and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a period of time such as tomatoes and peppers for best use of space and containers. Dwarf or miniature varieties often mature and bear fruit earlier, but most do not produce as well overall as standard varieties. With increasing interest in container gardening, plant breeders and seed companies are working on vegetables specifically bred for container culture. These varieties are not necessarily miniature or dwarf and may produce as well as standard types if properly cared for.

The amount of sunlight that your container garden receives determines what crops can be grown. Generally, root crops and leaf crops can tolerate partial shade, but vegetables grown for their fruits generally need at least five hours of full, direct sunlight each day, and perform best with 8-10 hours. Available light can be increased somewhat by providing reflective materials around the plants (aluminum foil, white-painted surfaces, marble chips, etc.).

Container gardening lends itself to attractive plantscaping. A dull patio area can be brightened by the addition of baskets of cascading tomatoes or a colorful herb mix. Planter boxes with trellises can be used to create a cool, shady place on an apartment balcony. Container gardening presents opportunities for many innovative ideas.

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Containers

The many possible containers may be made of clay, wood, plastic, metal, or other materials. Containers for vegetable plants must (1) be big enough to support plants when they are fully grown, (2) have adequate drainage, and (3) never have held products that would be toxic to plants or people. Consider using barrels, flower pots, cut-off milk and bleach jugs, recycled Styrofoam coolers, window boxes, baskets lined with plastic with drainage holes punched in it, even pieces of drainage pipes or cinder blocks. If you are buying or building a planter box out of wood, you will find cedar wood and cedar to be the most rot-resistant. Wood for use around plants should never be treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol (Penta) wood preservatives, as these are toxic to plants and harmful to people as well. If you have to use a wood preservative to keep wood from rotting, use a copper napthenate product, or ask for salt-treated lumber. Other attractive container options are the bamboo planter or willow planter.

Gardeners have built vertical planters out of wood lattice work lined with black plastic and filled with a lightweight soil mix, or out of welded wire shaped into cylinders lined with sphagnum moss. Depending on the size of your vertical planter, 2" diameter perforated plastic pipes may be needed inside to provide good water penetration.

Whatever type of container you use, be sure that there are holes in the bottom for drainage so that the plant roots do not stand in water. Most plants need containers at least 6-8 inches deep for adequate root development.

The imaginative use of discarded items or construction of attractive patio planters is a very enjoyable aspect of container gardening. For ease of care, dollies or platforms with wheels or casters can be used to move the containers from place to place. This is especially useful for apartment or balcony gardening so that plants can be moved to get maximum use of the available sunlight, and to avoid damage from particularly nasty weather.

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Potting Soil

A lightweight potting mix is needed for container gardening. Soil straight from the garden cannot be used because it will not drain fast enough, resulting in too little air for the roots, and it pulls away from the sides of the pot when dry. The ideal container medium must be porous to drain well but high enough in organic matter to hold water, because roots require both air and water. Packaged potting soil available at local garden centers may make a good container medium but be sure that it is not too high in organic matter. Soilless mixes such as the peat/peatlite mix are generally too light for container vegetable gardening, not offering enough support to plant roots. If the container is also lightweight, a strong wind can blow plants over, resulting in major damage. Also, the soilless mixes are sterile and container no insects, diseases or weeds. However, no trace elements are available for good plant growth and must be added with major fertilizers. For a large container garden, the expense of prepackaged or soilless mixes may be quite high. Try mixing your own with one part peat moss, one part garden loam, and one part clean coarse builder's sand, and a slow release fertilizer according to container size. Lime may also be needed to bring the pH to around 6.5. A soil test is helpful in determining nutrient and pH needs, just as in a larger garden.

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Planting

Planting Plant container crops at the same time as a regular garden. Fill a clean container to within one-half inch of the top with the slightly damp soil mixture. Peat moss in the mix will absorb water and mix much more readily if moistened with warm water before putting the mix in the container. Sow the seeds according to the instructions on the seed package or set transplants. Put a label with the name, variety, and date of planting in each container. After planting, gently soak the soil with water, being careful not to wash out or displace seeds. Thin seedlings to obtain proper spacing when the plants have two or three leaves. If cages, stakes, or other supports are needed, provide them when the plants are very small to avoid root damage later.

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Watering

Pay particular attention to watering container plants. Because the volumes of soil are relatively small, containers can dry out very quickly, especially on a concrete patio in full sun. Daily or even twice daily watering may be necessary. Apply water until it runs out the drainage holes. On an upstairs balcony make provisions for drainage or water. Large trays filled with coarse marble chips work nicely. The soil should never be soggy or have water standing on top of it. When the weather is cool container plants may be subject to root rots if maintained too wet. Clay pots and other porous containers allow additional evaporation from the sides of the pots and watering must be done more often. Small pots also tend to dry out more quickly than larger ones. If the soil appears to be drying excessively fast, group the containers together so that the foliage creates a canopy to help shade the soil and keep it cooler. Mulch with organic matter such as leaves or wood chips to reduce evaporation from soil. On a hot patio, you might consider putting the containers on pallets or other structures that will allow air movement beneath the pots and prevent direct contact with the cement. Check your containers at least once a day and twice on hot, dry or windy days. Feel the soil to determine whether or not it is damp. Windbreaks can help reduce water requirements for containers. If you are away a lot, consider an automatic drip emitter irrigation system .

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Fertilizing

If you use a soil mix with fertilizer added, then your plants will have enough nutrients for 8-10 weeks. If plants are grown longer than this, then add a water-soluble fertilizer at the recommended rate. Repeat every 2-3 weeks. An occasional dose of fish emulsion or compost will add trace elements to the soil. Do not add more than the recommended rate of any fertilizer, since this may cause fertilizer burn and the death of your plants.

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General Care

Vegetables grown in containers are attacked by the same insects and diseases that are common to any vegetable garden. Plants should be periodically inspected for the presence of foliage- feeding and fruit-feeding insects as well as the occurrence of diseases. Protect plants from very high heat caused by light reflection from pavement. Move them to a cooler spot or shade them during the hottest part of the day. Plants should be moved to a more sheltered location during severe rain, hail, or wind storms, and for protection from fall frosts.

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Indoor Container Gardening

If you want to have fresh vegetables over the winter, or if you don't have an outdoor space in which you can place containers, it is worth trying indoor container gardening. A bright, sunny window can be the site for growing fresh food all year. Small- fruited tomatoes and peppers, several types of lettuce, radishes, and many herbs are among the plants you can include in an indoor garden.

Follow the directions given above for preparing pots and for watering, fertilizing, etc. However, note that plants will dry out less quickly indoors and will also grow more slowly, needing less fertilizer. To make watering easier, it is wise to set the pots in large trays with an inch or two of decorative stones. Not only will this prevent having to move the plants in order to water them, it will also provide humidity, which is a major requirement, especially during winter when the house is warm and dry.

A sunny window, preferably south-facing, is a must for indoor vegetable growing. Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers will also need supplemental light, such as a combination warm white/cool white fluorescent fixture, during winter months. Insufficient light will result in tall, spindly plants and failure to flower and set fruit.

Herbs are a first choice for many indoor gardeners. Many are less demanding than vegetable plants, and cooks find it pleasant to be able to snip off a few sprigs of fresh parsley or chop some chives from the windowsill herb garden. Chives grow like small onions with leaves about six inches tall. These plants prefer cool conditions with good light, but will grow quite well on a windowsill in the kitchen. One or two pots of chives will provide leaves for seasoning salads and soups. Plant seeds or small bulbs in a six-inch pot. The plants should be about one inch apart over the entire surface. It will require about twelve weeks from the time seeds are planted until leaves can be cut. For variety, try garlic or Chinese chives, which grow in a similar fashion, but have a mild garlic flavor. Plants from the garden can be potted and brought inside for the winter.

Parsley seeds can be planted directly into six-inch pots, or young healthy plants can be transplanted from the garden. One vigorous plant per pot is enough. Standard parsley develops attractive, green, curly leaves about six or eight inches tall. Italian, or single-leaved, parsley has a slightly stronger flavor and is a favorite for pasta dishes. Leaves can be clipped about 10-12 weeks after planting the seeds. As a biannual it blooms and dies in the second year of growth. Parsley is particularly susceptible to spider mite when grown indoors. Frequent rinsing of leaves will help reduce this problem.

Cilantro, or the leaves of the young coriander plant, can be grown in your windowsill garden. Cilantro is used in Oriental and Mexican dishes, but it is not available in most grocery stores and must be used fresh. Grow cilantro as you would parsley. Thyme and other herbs will also grow well indoors if given the right conditions.

The small-fruited varieties of tomatoes such as Tiny Tim, Small Fry and the paste tomato, Roma, may be raised quite satisfactorily in the home. They will challenge your gardening ability, and supply fruits which can be eaten whole, cooked, or served with salad. The Tiny Tim tomato grows to a height of about 12-15". Small Fry, which is about three feet tall, and Roma will need more space and should be located on an enclosed porch or in a sun room. Several varieties have been developed for hanging baskets, too, which may be worth experimenting with.

Some of the small-fruited peppers may be grown as house plants. Like tomatoes, they prefer warm, bright conditions in order to grow well. Fruits will be ready to harvest from peppers and tomatoes about ten weeks after planting. Whiteflies and aphids may present a problem on indoor tomato and pepper plants. Keep a close watch for these pests so that they do not get a good start in your planting. Yellow sticky traps, either purchased or homemade from boards painted with Rustoleum No. 659 and smeared with a light coating of grease, are effective in trapping whiteflies. Insecticidal soap or other pesticide approved for vegetable plants can be used to control aphids. Fortunately, problems with such outdoor pests as tomato hornworms, and late blight will be eliminated.

For a quick-growing crop, try radishes. These must be grown very rapidly if they are to be crisp and succulent. Scatter radish seeds on moist soil in a six- or eight-inch pot. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil and place a piece of glass or plastic wrap over the pot to conserve moisture until the seeds germinate. Carrots are slower, but can be grown in the same way; use the small-rooted varieties, such a Little Finger, for best results indoors.

Experiment with various types of lettuce. Leaf lettuce and the miniature Tom Thumb butterhead are some to try. Space them according to package directions. Keep lettuce moist and in a very sunny spot.

Happy gardening, if you have any questions or comments for us, please drop us an email, Thank for visiting us.

 

 


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Last modified: January 11, 2014