Container gardening is becoming more and more popular as people appreciate the flexibility and extra growing space it provides. It’s not just about flowers: you can grow your own tasty vegetables right outside your door and many specially-adapted plant varieties are now available.
But growing in containers does come with its own special challenges and if you want to succeed it’s important to plan ahead. Let us take you through the essentials.
Where to site your containers is the first thing you need to consider
Most vegetable plants like lots of sun, so it’s important to choose a place that will provide 6 hours or more of direct light – south or west facing locations are the best.
Placing them as close to your house as you can, will mean you have easy access to your plants, great for harvesting and easy for you to take care of them.
Choose a sheltered spot for your pots so your plants are kept out of cold and drying winds; walls, fences & hedges are good locations.
Using your window ledges and balconies is a great way to get started if you don’t have a garden, but make sure your pots are properly secured to prevent them from blowing off when the weather gets windy.
Watering potted plants
Watering is the number one priority for containers; As the plants won’t have access to moisture below ground, on a hot sunny day, they can dry out within hours and plants might not recover from serious wilting.
On hot days giving plants a thorough watering in the early morning and evening will be required, making sure that you don’t just wet the surface, but allow it to soak down to the roots.
For added convenience, drip irrigation can be installed, particularly useful if you’ll be away from home during part of the summer.
How to choose pots for your container garden
Garden containers come in all shapes, sizes colors and materials; plastic and wood are tried and tested materials, but you can unleash your creativity. Just make sure they are clean and won’t leach harmful chemicals.
Large pots can also be used to grow plants that aren’t native to your area. For example, they can be filled with an ericaceous soil for blueberries, which like acidic conditions.
And for heat-loving plants such as dwarf citrus trees, containers enable the plans to be moved to a warm conservatory or greenhouse during winter months, protecting them from the worst of the winter weather.
There are plenty of options available for using vertical space too, and if you have a warm sunny wall that absorbs heat during the day this will radiate the warmth during the night, protecting the plants from cold snaps.
Container Gardening Tips
- It’s essential to provide good drainage; Plants are easily killed if their roots are waterlogged. Make sure there are adequate drainage holes and that they’re free from dirt or blockages.
- Adding a shallow layer of stones or broken pottery to the base of the pot often helps to improve drainage. The aim is to cover the drainage hole so the soil doesn’t leak out while still providing gaps for excess water to drain through.
- Fill the container with a purchased potting soil or your own homemade compost.
- Don’t use soil from your garden, as this is likely to be heavy and to contain weeds and soil-borne pests.
- Using a lightweight and moisture-retentive mix is the best for containers, and it will need topping up each season to replenish nutrients which have been used up.
- Which container is best to use will depend on what sort of crops you are growing.
Best veggies to grow in containers
It doesn’t get any easier than growing salad leaves in containers; they only need a shallow container a few inches deep.
If summers are hot in your location, choose an area that gets morning sunshine and afternoon shade to avoid the plants bolting (running to seed) before they are ready for harvest.
Cut-and-come-again type salad leaves often come in packets with several different varieties, providing an exciting mix of leaves that will only take weeks to grow.
Tomatoes can be grown in several different types of containers, but they’ll need plenty of soil to supply the nutrients they need right up to harvest.
Many varieties, such as Tumbling Tom, can be grown in hanging baskets, and look great as they trail towards the floor. Other varieties can be grown in grow bags or soil bags, or you can use large pots at least 10 inches in diameter.
Make sure you use a stake and tie the plants to it to keep them upright.
Tomatoes are very thirsty so it will need lots of water, at least twice a day in hot weather.
Potatoes can be grown in large pots or bags and sacks designed specifically for the job. The seed potatoes are layered with potting mix and left in a sunny spot, watering as required. As they grow you can layer more soil around the stem of the shoots, gradually building it up over a few weeks until the top of the container is reached.
Best Garden Planting Bags for Potato
Many other vegetables, herbs and edible flowers can be grown in pots.
Gardening in containers is an easy way to grow your own food and you can expand with more containers to fill the space you have. Whether you have one simple pot for herbs, or a mini-farm full of plants, it’s easy to get hooked on the taste of growing your own fresh vegetables and the convenience of having it right outside your back door.