For someone that does not own a big plot of land for gardening, let’s say only balcony, container gardening is the only way to have a garden at all. Container gardening is growing plants in pots or containers, and this form of gardening has certain advantages over gardening in a plot of land.
Some of the advantages are:
- You are able to grow soil-specific plants
- You can move the plants to shelter in bad weather
- You can have a choice of displaying the plants when they are flowering and withdraw them when they are not
Basic container gardening principals
When growing plants in containers, they will need extra attention and care from your part, as you are more responsible for their needs. Thus, the basic things you need to consider are the soil, the watering, and the fertilization.
The soil used in the container should be easily drained, and yet retains its moisture well. It should allow the roots to develop, while not accumulating water that eventually kills the roots – and the plant. Such soil is best obtained from potting mixes. Potting mixes are not actually soil, but contain a mix of organic materials that are conducive for plant growth such as vermiculite, tree bark, or other forest plant debris.
Since potting mixtures can be relatively costly, you can create your own potting mixture by buying the component materials and mixing them yourself. There are two parts to potting mixture: 1) organic material 2) mineral material. Organic material would be things like peat, bark, and compost. Mineral matter would be things like sand, soil, vermiculite, etc.
One possible mixture:
- 1 part sand (river sand)
- 1 part good garden soil
- 1 part peat moss (or 2 parts, in case of plants that prefer acidic soil)
Despite their advantages, potting mixtures dry out faster than soil and lose nutrients faster due to leaching. What you can do to mitigate this is to add water absorbent polymers that are designed for gardening, into the potting mix. These polymers absorb and retain moisture, while slowly releasing it. This allows you to stretch your watering intervals.
Inspecting the soil is important before you conduct any watering. Test the soil with your fingers; if it’s dry beneath the surface and the weather is hot and dry, it’s time to water. Water the entire soil surface thoroughly until the water starts flowing out through the drainage holes; this helps ensure the entire soil mass in the container gets watered.
If water comes out from the drainage hole too quickly, this may mean the water is just running down the inside surface of the container and not going through the soil. This can be caused by the root ball shrinking away from the sides of the container due to it being too dry. To remedy this, you can block the drainage hole and then water the plant – Remove the block after the soil has been soaked.
In container gardening, nutrients in the soil will get leached out fairly quickly. Therefore, regular fertilizing should be carried out, based on your plant’s condition. The plant’s growth rate, peak growth periods, blooming and dormant periods all need to be taken into consideration; fertilizers should only be given for growth and blooming periods.
Both liquid-based and dry fertilizers can be used. Dry fertilizers have slow-release mode, whereby they only release their nutrients gradually. This fertilizer does not need to be applied as often as others.
As your container plant starts growing larger, its root system may outgrow the container it is in, and the roots overflow out the drainage hole. This is when you may need to re-pot the plant to a bigger container (but not much bigger), or prune off the roots. The reason why you don’t want a much larger container (unless the plant is a fast growing one), is because unused soil in a much larger container can potentially turn into a haven for plant pathogens.
Many other useful tips in the video below:
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Inspect the plant’s root mass and use a tool to loosen the compacted soil around the root mass to encourage new root growth into any new soil in the new container. If you wish to prune off the roots, shave off 1-2 inches of the outer root mass on all sides away, and then replant the plant back into its container with fresh soil mix added all around the roots.
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