Containers Offer Instant Gratification
No matter where you live, there’s usually room for a container garden on the windowsill, patio, balcony or doorstep. Container gardening is almost instant satisfaction. It doesn’t take long to put together and it’s easy to envision.
Growing plants in containers doesn’t require a lot of investment. Virtually any type of container can be used. They brighten a space, are a fun learning experience for kids and provide beautiful color and/or delicious produce and herbs.
Some of the same principles required of a traditional garden apply to a container garden. A thorough understanding of the site conditions enables you to choose the right plant for the right place. Pay close attention to sun exposure. During our hot summers, full morning sun will be much cooler than full afternoon sun.
Understanding the habit and final size of the plant will allow you to choose the right size container. Don’t underestimate the pot size needed to accommodate root development. Annual flowers grow rapidly and can easily become rootbound, which limits flowering. Make sure the container has adequate and open drainage holes so excess water can escape. If you use pot saucers, empty them after watering to prevent root rot and mosquitoes. Clay, or unglazed ceramic, containers lose moisture quickly, requiring more frequent watering than plastic, fiberglass or glazed containers.
Use a commercial, soilless potting mix. Do not use garden soil. Soilless mixes afford proper drainage, and many contain fertilizer and moisture retention materials. Fill the container 2 inches from the top to allow room for watering, and make sure not pack the mix in the container. Prior to planting, thoroughly wet the plants so the root balls remain intact and are easier to remove from their pot. Then, plant the root ball at the same depth and gently firm the soil around the plant. Once the container is planted, water thoroughly. If the commercial potting mix contained fertilizer, you won’t need to fertilize again for two to three weeks.
Have an available water source nearby. Newly planted containers may only require watering once or twice a week. However, once established, pots may need daily watering during hot weather. A simple soil moisture meter is handy to determine if watering is needed, since over watering is the most common cause of plant failure.
If you’re planting containers for color or foliage, you may be interested in Steve Silk’s philosophy, “I’ve come to realize there’s no mystery in making a scrumptious container planting as long as I follow a simple three-ingredient recipe. First and foremost is what I call a ‘thriller,’ a centerpiece plant with star quality, something big, bold and beautiful. Then I add a few spicy ‘fillers,’ foliage or flowering plants that will complement but not overwhelm the main player. Finally, I add a savory splash of mischief, a ‘spiller’ that just tumbles out of the pot. As long as I use each of those kinds of plants—in various proportions—and take care to balance colors and textures, I can create a pot with pizzazz.”
For inspiration with color selections refer to the color wheel of primary, secondary and tertiary colors. Themes may be analogous (colors adjacent on the wheel) or complimentary (colors opposite on the color wheel). You are only limited by your imagination; bold or subtle, it’s up to you.
To keep your containers healthy and looking good, remember to remove the spent flowers. Trim or pinch back plants to maintain an attractive size and full appearance. Don’t let them dry out and water thoroughly either in the morning or evening, never in the heat of the day. The best-looking pots are those that receive the most attention!
For help getting started visit, https://extension.uga.edu/publications.html. The UGA Extension website also has in-depth information on container gardening using perennials and woody plants, tropical plants and herbs. Vegetables are easily grown in containers from all types of herbs to tomatoes, peppers, radishes, lettuce, kale, potatoes, etc.
The Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County supports the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and strives to improve the quality of life in our community by delivering research – based horticultural information, educational programs and projects.
– Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County is a part of the University of Georgia Extension in Marietta.