Container Gardening from Tulsa People Magazine

Thursday, March 1, 2018 12:12 PM

Container gardening is one of today’s fastest-growing types of gardening. It is a perfect starting point for children or beginners; it's great for renters or people with limited space; and, it’s manageable for those with limited leisure time.

Containers can be as attractive and elegant as colorful glazed pots or decorative window boxes, or as whimsical as an old wheelbarrow, leather boots, or a lined laundry basket.  They not only add to the décor of an outdoor living space, such as a patio, but have the added advantage of being portable.  Essentially, anything that can hold soil and allows for good drainage can be converted into a planter.  Your imagination is the only limitation!

Whichever type of container you select, it must drain well.  Use only potting soil, as any other materials that are added to the bottom, such as gravel, will adversely affect proper drainage.  And, light colored pots are much cooler in the summer than those of darker shades.

Proper selection of potting soil is very important.  Pick a trusted brand.  For best results, select a mix that drains well, holds moisture and is porous enough to allow for good air and water movement.  Most commercial soils will contain variable mixes of compost, peat moss, sand, vermiculite and other materials and have a properly adjusted soil pH.  Caution - do not use soil from the garden as it may contain disease and will likely not drain well.

Containers tend to dry out very quickly and will need frequent irrigation.  Therefore, a daily check of your containers, especially in the hottest months, is a must.  To determine when it's time to water, here’s a fun little trick if you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty.  Stick your finger into the soil about two inches deep.  If it's dry near the tip of your finger, it’s time to water.  Enough water should be added until it drains from the bottom of the pot.  Careful, though, as over-watering will suffocate roots.  Discard the drainage water, as it contains undesirable fertilizer residues which may be harmful to your plants if not removed.  If all of this seems like too much guesswork, install a simple drip-irrigation system or just use a self-watering container.

All plants have their individual needs for fertilizer and most good soils will have proper nutrients already added.  But, supplementing with a balanced fertilizer, such as Osmocote, is quite alright.  Once plants begin growing and bearing fruit, use a liquid fertilizer once every 2-3 weeks.  Do not over-do it as too much nitrogen fertilizer may be harmful, especially to tomatoes.

Many types of vegetables and most herbs lend themselves well to this type of gardening. Children love it!  Nothing tastes better than home-grown tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash and salad greens.  Vegetables do grow rapidly and need regular fertilization and plenty of sunshine.  Pick plants which have similar growing requirements. 

Container gardening has unlimited possibilities that fit into most gardener’s plans, not only for attractive flowers but for many types of vegetables.  So, for those not wishing to create and maintain a larger garden, containers may just be the answer for both young and not so young at heart.