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Container Gardening: Maximizing Plant Growth with Environmental Control

by | Aug 30, 2023 | Gardening | 0 comments

Containers allow gardeners to control the environment, that is, the “soil” (potting mix), moisture, location (relative to sunlight and wind), temperature, and weed prevention.

Plants have been grown indoors and out in window boxes and small containers for hundreds of years. Much larger containers have been used for indoor or outdoor landscaping for residents, businesses, and malls.

Landscape and vegetable gardening in containers is growing in popularity. Containers are helpful for gardeners with limited space to provide special features or flexibility in the landscape and obtain maximum production from flower and vegetable plants. Special flowers and vegetables may be grown each spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

Containers are suitable for growing flowers, vegetables, herbs, small to medium size shrubs, or dwarf trees.

The most efficient containers have a water reservoir in the bottom with an overflow hole, a cover over the potting mix, and a wick into the water. They don’t require additional water as often as others.

The containers can be placed upon other structures or brackets or hung from beams for convenience and to protect the plants from animals. The soil may be considerably hotter during the summer than the air temperatures. Then the containers must be placed on plastic pipes or other material that will not transfer all that heat into the potting mix. Most plants we grow in this area are stressed when the soil becomes hot.

You can buy or build containers for special needs. Garden supply centers have traditional units, some with special features and designs. Other suitable types with drainage holes are buckets, baskets, 30-or 55-gallon drums, cans, tubs, sacks, boxes, half-barrels, etc. Another idea is to hang a bucket from a high hook or beam with a tomato plant growing from the bottom.

Plants require suitable moisture, air, nutrients, light, and temperature. Many plant species need at least eight hours of sunlight each day. Plants in containers require more water and fertilizer than in beds or plots.

The size for vegetable plants of beets, carrots, Swiss chard, lettuce, onions, and radishes should be at least a 1-gallon container; 2 gallons for beans, mustard, and turnips; 3 gallons for peppers and 5 gallons or more for all larger plants according to their expected mature root system.

You can move the containers for protection from the cold, heat, and strong wind or into more or less sunlight.

Container gardening can prevent some soil problems. Soils for container plants must have different properties than those in the yard. The potting mix used for container gardening has a much greater effect on plant growth than the container does. Potting mix is best for container gardening and may be obtained from local garden centers or mixed according to a successful formula.

The potting mix should drain well, hold moisture and nutrients, be weed and disease free, be lightweight, and contain no yard soil. It should be soaked completely before setting any plants or seeding.

Smaller mature sizes of flower, shrub, and vegetable varieties are more desirable to grow and maintain in containers.

It’s best to start with healthy transplants rather than sowing seeds. Most flowers and vegetables should be transplanted when they develop their first two or three true leaves. Don’t touch the hairs on the stem of small plants.

Fertilizers should be water-soluble to avoid the accumulation of salts in the container and should be applied each week during the peak-growing season. If you use regular balanced fertilizers and the containers have drain holes, leach out unused fertilizer about once weekly by applying sufficient water to cause drainage.

Rainwater is the best source of moisture. When leaves turn yellow and fall off, it means that the plant needed more water several days before that occurred. If the plants are overwatered, the edges of the leaves turn brown. If the containers are too large, it’s easy to over-water the plants. Insects and diseases may be easier to control.

Beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, squash, and tomatoes require full sunlight. Beets, carrots, Cole crops, Swiss chard, lettuce, mustard, onions, radishes, and turnips require morning sunlight and some afternoon shade during the hot days of summer. All fall crops require full sunlight.

Container gardening is a wise choice for apartment dwellers, a highly mobile society, and for adding versatility to your gardens. However, container gardening requires better management to develop maximum production.