Have you ever driven by a house with charming pots of plants leading up to the front door? Have you ever wanted to create the same look for your own home, but felt overwhelmed while visiting a nursery? With hundreds of plants to choose from, it can feel more than a bit intimidating!
Even so, container gardening is a great way to bring a garden to your home whether you live in an apartment, condo, mobile home , or two story house on acreage. It’s also much easier than you might think. Another benefit of container gardening is the ability to make it a one-time expense and have the rewards for years to come.
To make container planting a success for your home, just follow these 5 easy steps:
1. Choose a container
Whatever container you choose, it must have a drain hole, or a material that you can drill into to make a few drain holes.You can choose a more permanent container like a whisky barrel or use smaller containers that you can easily move around your yard or porch. I’ve seen containers made from old dresser drawers, rusted out wheel barrows, bird cages and old boots. Be as creative as you like.
Be sure the container is large enough for the plants you want. If it’s especially deep, I recommend placing rocks in the bottom to help with drainage. Plus you won’t require as much soil.
2. Pick your soil wisely
If you’re only growing on-edible plants in your container, then almost any soil mix will do. I recommend going with a potting soil mix that releases plant food over time such as Miracle grow. But, if you’re going to grow edibles, then I highly suggest using organic potting soil or organic compost. Miracle Grow also has an organic option.
You can find soil mixes at the garden section at any big box store, such as Walmart, K-Mart, Home Depot, etc. Or go visit a local plant nursery. The benefit of plant nurseries is that you get plants grown in your region so they usually perform better. Nurseries will also have potting soil mixes and usually bags of compost available, too. Plus, the staff at nurseries will give helpful advice, answer questions, and specialize in plants.
You can purchase a good sized bag of organic potting soil for less than $10. Or, if you have a friend who gardens, they might be happy to give you enough to get started.
Because plants in containers can’t absorb nutrients from the soil, it’s important to give them some type of food by the dirt you put inside the container. You can also add your own soil additives from some of your common kitchen scraps.
3. Choose your plants
If you want the most bang for your buck, invest in perennials. Perennials continue to come back every year, which means that you won’t have to purchase new plants every spring. Annuals die at the end of their growing season. However, some annuals are beautiful and can be a fun way to punch up the color factor. You can also mix and match perennials with annuals.
When first starting out with gardening, it’s best to buy starts and avoid growing from seeds. I recommend going with perennials to save yourself money and time over the long run.
This list includes perennials that are very hardy and virtually impossible to kill:
Daffodils (bulbs do great in containers)
Snapdragon (if you have cold temperatures this will act as an annual)
Flowering kale and cabbage
Perennial carnations (border varieties work best for containers)
By doing a little research, you can find free starts of flowers and herbs. Go on Facebook or Craigslist for people who are dividing their perennials in the spring.
4. Add edible plants
While I like to beautify my garden with container plant, I also like them to double as my mini farmer’s market. Many edible plants are wonderful choices for your container gardeners, both as saving money on your food bill and as pretty additions.
Many herbs are actually best grown in containers. For instance, all of the mint family performs best in containers as they’re invasive when planted in the ground.
Here is a list of great edibles to plant:
Pansies (edible flower)
5. Place your plants
Before you plop your plants in the dirt, take some time to decide where in your container you want them. Generally speaking, taller plants are best in the back and center. That way, they don’t shade smaller plants and act as a focal point. Next, put your mid-level plants in, with trailing plants on the outer edge.
When planting your plants, lightly pinch the bottom of the containers they come from and try not to pull too hard on the stems.
Once the plant is free of the plastic container, gently break up the roots before putting them in their hole. You can use your hands, a dull knife, or the edge of your gardening shears. After you’ve loosened the roots, place the plat in the hole you dug. Make sure to place the crown of the plant (where the stem meets the soil) to be the same level when it’s planted as it was when you purchased it. Tap down on the dirt around the plant to hold it in place. Give it a good drink of water after planting it.
Finally, be sure to enjoy your plants. But be warned, growing your own food can become addictive—every year, we enlarge our garden plot and containers!
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