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Container Gardening 101

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Gardening | 0 comments

Perfect for people with limited gardening space, container gardening is a wonderful way to beautify your surroundings or grow your own organic produce.

Since most containers are portable, you can move your plants around and give your living area an instant splash of color. For instance, a container filled with flowering annuals or perennials and a clump of tall ornamental grass makes a great statement by your doorstep or near your patio.

You don’t have to buy containers. Even old buckets, milk cans, and wheelbarrows can be recycled and used.

Here are a few tips to remember when choosing a container:

  • Your container should be large enough to support the plants you’re growing in it
  • Ensure there’s adequate drainage (punch or drill a hole, if necessary)
  • Never use a container that has held products harmful to plants or people

Clay containers are long-time favorites. But remember that clay is porous and moisture is more readily lost. Also, clay containers are more fragile and heavier than plastic.

Wood is another popular material. Redwood and cedar containers are relatively rot resistant.

Potting Soil

Regular garden soil may not be suitable for container gardening, since it may not drain fast enough. This can make it difficult for air to reach the roots of your plants. On the positive side, more microorganisms and micronutrients that benefit plant growth are present in garden soils.

Anawalt Lumber & Hardware offers many choices of soil for your container planting:

  • Premium Soil – Made with indoor plants in mind. This soil has a rich organic base of peat moss and composted bark, and a small nutrient charge with some perlite added for texture and appearance.
  • Organic Humus – Formulated specifically for Southern California gardeners. This soil mix contains acid-forming minerals, peat moss, and composted bark mulch.
  • Top Soil Mix – An ideal “fill in” soil mix for all purposes. Our soil mix works well for filling in low areas in your yard, blending with potting soil to add weight, or as a standalone planting mix. Top soil mix is great for containers because it has added sand, which will increase your container weight, making it less likely to blow over on a windy day.
  • Rose Planting Mix – This carries a virtually neutral pH and has no added nutrient package. The mix is formulated for hibiscus, mandevilla, plumeria, and all patio container plants.

What to Grow

Just browse our garden center and you’ll see lots of ideas. All annuals, especially those that are heat tolerant, do well in containers.

Here are some general tips to consider.

  • Think logically when planting in containers. Plant shade-loving plants together and plant sun-loving plants together. Also, remember that both groups of plants have different watering needs.
  • Consider layers, textures and colors when making your selection. Masses of color work best in smaller areas. Whiskey barrels containing a tall accent perennial with a low border of annuals and cascading or trailing ivy along the barrel’s rim lend a tidy look to your outside area.
  • Watch how you water. Allow enough water to saturate the pot until you see water coming out from the drain holes. Avoid using a direct stream from a hose. Some containers drain more rapidly than others. Small containers usually retain less moisture. When you water should depend on the type of plant, potting mix, and weather conditions. In the hot summertime, you may need to water once or twice every day.
  • Regularly feed your plants. The addition of a slow fertilizer at planting time will help, but regular feeding during the growing season will give you optimum performance.
  • Consider adding mulch. Not only will an organic layer of mulch reduce water evaporation and keep the soil cool, it also makes your containers more attractive.
  • Don’t forget to “deadhead”. This term refers to the removal of dead blossoms to encourage more blooming. Unless you’ve planted vegetables, berries or fruits, you shouldn’t encourage your annuals to produce fruit or seed if your desire is to have color all season long. On the other hand, you may be able to keep an old garden going from year to year by systematically collecting seeds for replanting. This won’t preserve hybrid varieties, but it works for strong plants.

Water Conservation

Containers let you control the amount and distribution of water to plants. Check your containers at least once a day, twice on hot, dry or windy days. Feel the soil to determine whether or not it is damp. If you’re away from the home often, consider an automatic drip irrigation system, available with timers that can be set to water on a schedule and operate for weeks on batteries. Of course, you can also use elaborate electronic watering systems.

How to Plant

  • Place a piece or two of broken pottery over the bottom hole of your container. This will help prevent soil from washing out of the pot. Placing gravel over the hole instead will add weight, but won’t improve the drainage.
  • Lay out what you’ll grow in each container. Bear in mind the sizes of full size plants.
  • Begin in the center and work out to the edges.
  • Scoop out a hole to start, add a bit of slow release fertilizer to the hole, put a single plant in the hole, fill in around the roots, and take care not to break or damage tender branches of nearby plants. Proceed to the next plant.
  • When planting is complete, add a little more soil to the container, so that it’s filled to about 1 inch from the top. Then gently “water in” the new plants.
  • We mentioned mulch earlier as an attractive top layer, but small gravel or stones also work nicely to keep the soil in place, especially during our heavy rainy periods.

Container gardening is not just a trend. Potted bonsai trees have been around for centuries. Container oranges graced the Palace of Versailles. Enjoy the beauty and many benefits of gardening in containers!