Pot it There Container Gardening Even YOU Can Do
Gardening is one of the easiest and best ways to feel accomplished, work off a bit of stress and make the world a little more beautiful…even if it’s just your own little corner of the world.
Unfortunately, many people think gardening isn’t for them. They think they don’t have room, don’t have a green enough thumb or don’t have the time to garden. Are you one of these people?
If so, this book is going to change your mind and make your world a more colorful, sweet-smelling place and add some flavor to your kitchen.
The room necessary for container gardening can be as small as a ledge on a porch rail or the top of a nightstand. Or if you are fortunate enough to have a deck, patio, porch or even a bit of lawn space, container gardening is an option for you.
As for having a green thumb, don’t worry. It’s more important that you have thumbs (and fingers) willing to get dirty. While it is true that some plants are more difficult to grow than others, there are dozens of plants that require minimal care while still providing color, pleasant scents and even air purifying benefits inside and outside of your home.
The time it takes to plant and care for container gardens is also minimal. Even if you have numerous pots of plants, you will not have nearly as much time invested in those as you would in-ground flower beds and gardens.
So you see, it is possible for you to enjoy growing plants and flowers in containers…successfully.
If you already enjoy gardening but want to use something besides the standard clay pots seen everywhere and need a little help deciding what can and cannot be successfully grown in pots, this book is going to be your new go-to for creating gardens that will beautify your home and possibly even put food on your table.
This book will introduce you to new and unique options for pots—things you might never have thought of using otherwise. You will also be challenged to get your creative juices flowing in mixing and matching plants for attractive containers that will be the envy of everyone in the neighborhood.
Chapter 1: Container Gardening Basics
Gardening is like every other hobby with its own list of dos and don’ts; tricks of the trade, if you will. When you use the following basic container gardening guidelines, you significantly increase your chances of having plants and flowers you’ll be proud of and be able to enjoy all year ‘round.
The container. If something holds dirt it can be used as a container. In fact, there are a few things that don’t hold dirt in their original state that can be altered to do so (but more on that later).
Other than the ability to hold dirt, there are a few other qualities you need to look for in a container to be used for your plants and flowers. They are:
DRAINAGE. Anything used to house a plant needs to have adequate drainage. The ideal method being drain holes in the bottom of the pot. If this is not the case and you cannot put drainage holes in the pot, a layer of gravel (sized accordingly) will do the job in most cases. The exception to this rule (there’s always an exception) is in the case of succulents and cacti. Succulents and cacti require so little water that the need for drainage doesn’t really exist. And if it does, you are probably watering them too much.
Gravel in large plastic pot for drainage
SOIL. All dirt is not alike. There’s garden soil, potting soil, peat moss, soil for cactus, soil for orchids…. All plants and flowers put into containers or pots require potting soil. Potting soil is soil composed of different kinds of matter for the purpose of providing drainage, nutrients to the plants and texture which allows the soil to breathe (aeration).
When selecting potting soil to use for your container gardening, make sure it contains the proper amounts of the following:
COMPOST. decomposed plant and vegetable matter (leaves, fruit and vegetable peelings), worm castings and dried manure-preferably rabbit, chicken or cow. Compost should be the major ingredient or component in your soil.
PERLITE. tiny particles of volcanic rock that resembles Styrofoam. Perlite is light and airy. These tiny ball-like particles take in moisture when you water your container garden and can re-release the moisture into the soil later. Perlite also adds tiny air-pockets to the soil making it more breathable and less likely to pack down too tightly.
VERMICULITE. another type of rock which is porous and helps the soil to drain and breathe. Sometimes vermiculite is used with peat moss in place of compost.
SAND. while sand shouldn’t be a major component of your potting soil, it shouldn’t be left out, either. Sand not only helps with drainage issues, but it also serves to keep the soil in place for roots to grab hold of and cling to. In other words, they help provide a foundation for your plant to stand on.
BARK. shredded or ground bark chips in potting soil will usually come from pine or cypress trees. Pine bark is most popular due to the fact that it holds water that will release itself into the soil over time and the fact that as it decomposes (rots) it adds vital nutrients to the soil.
PEAT MOSS. the formation of peat moss occurs naturally over a period of hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Peat moss is rotted or decomposed under-layer of sphagnum moss that grows naturally in peat bogs. Peat moss is wet and heavy and should be mixed well with other components of potting soil in order to keep the soil from becoming too compacted. If this happens, the roots cannot grow and the plant will not thrive.
Sunlight. The amount of sunlight your container garden needs will depend upon the type of plants you have in your pots. Some plants need full, direct sun, while others need partial to full shade. The amount of sunlight different plants need is something you need to keep in mind when selecting which plants to put in your pots.
Water. All plants-even a cactus-needs at least some water. When planning your container garden, you need to know where the closest water source is. Will the hose reach to every pot? Will you be able to hand-water pots if the hose won’t reach them or you don’t have a hose?
Food. Plants are like people in the fact that they need food to survive. Many commercial potting soils have additives that will slowly release plant food into the soil for several months after potting your plants. BUT…this is only true if you do your part in watering the plant properly so that the nutrients will have the right amount of moisture to release these nutrients at the right time in the right amounts. Once the time span for this self-feeding soil has past, however, you will need to continue to feed your plants on a regular basis. Regular usually means monthly during a normal growing season and then not at all during the dormancy of the plant (usually fall/winter).
Most plant foods contain a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The amounts of each are indicated by a number and their symbol on the table of elements. For example: a plant food or fertilizer with the numbers 10n-15p-10k means the product contains 10% nitrogen, 15% phosphorus and 10% potassium.
Nitrogen is the main source of food for plants. It provides stems and leaves with chlorophyll, which makes them green, healthy and strong.
Chapter 2: A Pot by Many Other Names Can Still be a Pot
Selecting the pots to house your plants and flowers can be as simple as going to your local discount store or garden center and purchasing assorted sizes of traditional clay or plastic flower pots. And that’s fine, if that is what you feel comfortable with.
But when it comes to container gardening, the items you use as pots can say as much (or even more) about your personality as the plants and flowers they hold within.
Keeping that in mind, let’s start with the basics and go from there…
Traditional clay pots. These are great for most plants. Clay pots-also known as terra cotta pots-absorb the water from the soil because of their porous composition. This means that unless you just drown the plants, clay pots will absorb some of the moisture so that the plant doesn’t become waterlogged.
Chapter 3: Potable Flowers
Now that you know the basics of container gardening and have a plethora of ideas for containers, let’s talk about what types of flowers can be grown successfully in containers. It’s important to say up-front that the following list is not a complete list. There’s simply no way to list every possibility.
Portulaca - more commonly called Rose Moss
Chapter 4: Potable Plants
Mixing herbs and green plants with flowering plants adds texture and dimension to your container gardens. You will need to take the moisture and sunlight requirements of each kind of plant (flowering and green) into consideration so that you don’t mix plants that need partial to full shade with flowers that need full sun. Plants and herbs can also be used to create ‘walls’ and deter pests such as mosquitos.
Spikes—just what the name implies. The tall, lanky green spike adds height to a container garden. They require minimal care but are great to have.
Chapter 5: Food in Pots
Let’s talk about the food you can grow in a container garden. When deciding what edibles you can raise in a container garden, you need to remember two things: 1) foods grown need to have somewhat of a shallow root system 2) may need to be seeds or plants specifically developed for container growing.
Lettuce & other greens. Lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula and other greens can easily be grown from seed in containers that are at least 6 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter. Water and harvest regularly for optimal benefit.
Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce
Chapter 6: Caring for your Container Garden
Caring for your container garden(s) is really quite simple. Aside from providing the correct amount of sunlight and moisture and using pots/containers suitable to the plants you are growing, you can successfully grow anything you desire to grow. That is, as long as you…
--Keep your plants fed properly. For a refresher on what that means, refer back to chapter one.
--Keep your plants properly pruned or deadheaded. Deadheading is the process of removing faded, spent blooms and leaves from your plants to prevent them from sapping nutrients and energy from the healthier part of the plant and the new growth that is trying to emerge and bloom. A good pair of garden clippers or your fingers should be all that is necessary to do the job.
--Keep your plant free of pests. While not all bugs are bad for plants, it is essential that you keep your plants free of harmful pests. You can do this by using commercial sprays and powders or by taking a more natural or ‘green’ approach by spraying plants with a solution of 3 parts water to 1 part dish soap (DAWN is the preferred brand). Other natural remedies include placing halved grapefruits or a shallow saucer of beer in the container to ward off slugs and snails. Marigolds also act as a defense against some pests that feed off of the leaves of the veggies you are growing, so to plant a marigold or two in between your green beans or peppers can solve pest problems.
Chapter 7: Closing Remarks
While it is true you can’t grow everything in containers, I think you will agree that the options for container gardening are numerous enough that you won’t be able to grow them all. If you think about it, the biggest difference between container gardening and in-ground gardening is the amount of weeds that have to be pulled. And that’s a good thing.
As you plan to plant your container garden, remember that it, like every other aspect of your life should be a reflection of your passions and personality. So choose the plants and flowers you love, plant them in pots and containers that reflect who you are and help fill your part of the world with flowers…the smile of the world.