Monday, October 8, 2018

Notes on Container Growing – 2018 By Joyce D’Agostino

Herbs, 6/28/18, photo by Joyce D'Agostino
Container gardening has long been used successfully for many vegetables, herbs and flowers. This year I had my chance to really test it out. We had planned to move at some time in 2018 but this move happened sooner than expected and in May, which left me right very close to the time to set out the young plants.  Since our garden area completion was delayed, and I had plants to get into the ground, I had to think quickly in order to have a place for all of the plants.
The good news is that I not only had quite a few containers on hand, but had also found some grow bags at my favorite garden center this spring that I planned to test out. These bags are made from a strong felt type fabric that allows good drainage. 

Mystery tomatoes and peppers, 7/6/18, photo by Joyce d'agostina

I was able to set out the plants on time using all varieties of containers and all of them worked well. Some were large barrel type resin containers, the grow bags and some other large pots. After trying vegetables, herbs and flowers in the containers, here are some tips to follow that may help you have the best success with a “contained” garden:

1. Soil – the basis for all good gardening is healthy soil. There are now mixes that are labeled “good for containers” that not only are the right blend of soil or soil less mixes but some are also fortified with light fertilizers that help you get your plants off to a good start. Avoid soils such as a generic “garden soil” which may result in soils that are very heavy and may also contain weed seeds.
2. Watering – plants in containers often need more watering attention than those planted in the ground or raised beds. Because the soil mixes may be lighter and the container may hold heat more and the plants and soil can quickly dry out. You may need to check your containers daily to ensure that the plants are getting the right hydration. This is especially important should you have very hot weather for any period of time.

Peppers, Early Jalapeño, 8/31/18, photo by Joyce d'Agostino

3. The Right Plant in the Right Place – this is such an important rule to follow. Often if you have to keep your plants in containers, you may have a limited choice as to where they can be placed.  Check your seed package or the plant label that came with the transplant which should tell you if the plant needs full, partial or shade.  Even with the right container and soil, if the plant is placed in the wrong location for it’s sunlight needs, it may not produce as expected. 
4. Know your zone – Just like in #3, knowing your hardiness zone is very important. You can find it using this link: Once you know your zone, then be sure to read the seed catalogs and plant markers carefully before you buy. Even with the best container, a plant suited for another zone won’t produce the best results. 
5. Containers can be heavy – if you plan to move your container around, you will need to have it on wheels or some other moveable support. One advantage of containers is that as the sun changes over the season and you want it to have more or less sun for example, you can move the container to another spot. However, this may not be possible with  large containers that become very heavy once the soil and plants are in place, so in that case try to choose the best permanent location.
6. Don’t crowd your plants – when the seedlings or transplants are small, and you have a large container, often it seems that you need more to fill in the pot and then can end up with overcrowding. Refer to the seed packet or the plant marker for the proper spacing. Overcrowding can cause the plants to not produce or grow properly and can limit air flow which can then result in diseases. 

Pumpkin, Big Max, 7/6/18, photo  by Joyce D'Agostino

Overall, I was very happy with the results of the containers and recommend that you try them. The following CSU resources have some good information and tips about container gardening.