Gardening Basics #7: Container Gardening
Perhaps you live in an apartment, have limited space in your yard, or just don’t want to have a full-scale garden. By growing in containers, you can have an abundance of fresh vegetables and herbs just steps from the kitchen. These plants can be attractive and will enhance your patio, deck, or balcony. Nothing tastes better or is more nutritious or flavorful than fruits, vegetables, or herbs harvested minutes before eating. Paying attention to a few important rules and investing only a little time will assure you of a container garden that will be easy to set up and maintain and one that will offer a bountiful harvest. Here are the aspects you must consider:
Sunlight is the most important factor. Track the sun and shade patterns in your immediate area to get a good sense of the space where you intend to garden and what plants will do well there.
Fruit trees and vegetables that set flowers (such as oranges, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, or squash) need a lot of sunlight. Photosynthesis produces sugars that directly feed flowers and help grow fruits of appealing size, taste, and nutritional value. A good local nursery staff member can tell you how much sun is needed in your area for any plants you want to grow.
Container size is the second most important variable for container gardening. The more soil volume your plants have, the more extensive the root system to draw on a larger pool of nutrients and water. Available container space directly influences the nutritional value, size and quality of the fruits, vegetables and herbs you will harvest. More is definitely better. For example, tomatoes require a minimum of 15 gallons of soil in order to develop into full size plants that will produce tomatoes with rewarding taste and nutrition. Other vegetable crops can survive in smaller containers with less soil volume but would benefit from more.
Terracotta, redwood, or cedar containers give the best results because they “breathe” and their temperature doesn’t fluctuate as quickly as other material. They also retain water better. Plastic containers can work well if you mulch to retain moisture and be sure to water more frequently. It is a good idea to mulch all container plants.
Potting medium matters. The quality of the soil has a major impact on plant health and crop quality. In bagged potting soils, watch out for chemicals, such as synthetic plant nutrients. For peace of mind, choose Dr. Earth® bagged soils, knowing they are made from only the best natural ingredients and are never contaminated. We know how to formulate the most well-balanced mixture, one that drains quickly but also retains moisture to support a healthy transfer of nutrients to the roots.
You can use some of your own compost from kitchen and yard waste, mixing at the rate of about 1/3 compost to 2/3 potting soil. In the limited space of a container, a plant has access only to what you provide, so invest in the best soil available – Dr. Earth®.
Fertilizer feeds the living soil that feeds your plants’ root systems. Chemically fertilized soils lack organic matter and are more vulnerable to drought and extreme temperature changes. Organic gardening is based on soil health and the natural relationship between soil microbes and roots.
Fruit trees, tomatoes and most other vegetables, especially in containers, need a lot of fertilizer to reach full potential. Feed
the roots in your container plants slowly with the best, Dr. Earth® organic fertilizer for maximum nutrition from your plants. Sea-based organic fertilizers are superior and contain the most multi-minerals, from which you will benefit when you consume them. Feed container plants often throughout the year.
Trellising Support provides form and structure for better plant health. Exposing as many leaves to sunlight as possible helps to increase your harvest. Not all vegetables will require support, but cucumbers, tomatoes and other vine plants do. Trellises also create air space between plants to minimize fungal diseases and make flowers more accessible to insects that help to pollinate.
Some plants may need a stake in the center of the container, while a tomato wants a sturdy cage, and a cucumber needs a grid-like trellis. You can build many of these support systems from scraps around the house.
Gardening Basics is a nine part series outlining how you can get a healthy and beautiful garden the organic and natural way