Container gardening is more popular than ever. According to research conducted by Dynamic Design, the average household today has 4.2 planters. And why not? Ideal for urban or rural lifestyles, container gardening offers more mobility and flexibility than traditional gardening. It can provide year-round satisfaction as well as the opportunity to bring the outdoors inside.

Once thought to be the ideal alternative for apartment dwellers and people with small yards, container gardening is today enjoyed by people of all ages, lifestyles and gardening abilities.

Here are a few tips to ensure a successful, satisfying container gardening experience:

* Choose the Right Container

Use containers with capacities between 15 and 120 quarts, remembering that small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly. Deep rooted vegetables and larger plants require deeper pots to sustain growth.

Make sure your pot has adequate drainage. Holes should be one-half inch in diameter. You can line the base of the pot with newspaper to encourage drainage and prevent soil loss. Containers set on bricks or blocks will also drain better.

Most important in choosing the right container is consideration of the material. If you choose clay pots, remember that clay is porous, which means water can be lost through the sides.

Plants in clay pots should be monitored closely for moisture loss. Additionally, clay pots are more likely to crack in extreme temperatures and are heavy to maneuver should you change your mind regarding location or need to bring the planter indoors during the winter months.

Wood containers are attractive and blend nicely with most outdoor environments but are susceptible to rot. Redwood and cedar are relatively rot-resistant, but remember to avoid wood treated with creosote, penta, or other toxic compounds with vapors that can damage plants.

Cheap plastic pots may deteriorate in UV sunlight, and terra cotta pots have a tendency to dry out quickly. Glazed ceramic pots are extremely popular, but they are fragile and prone to cracking if not handled delicately.

A newer alternative on the market that eliminates many of these concerns is lightweight polyurethane foam from Dynamic Design (an Ames True Temper brand). These planters are easier to lift and maneuver because they are 90 percent lighter than clay pots. The foam planters are more durable than ceramic or clay, too, and able to withstand year-round extreme temperatures and exposure to sunlight without cracking or fading. Innovative technology allows the foam to closely resemble the looks of many natural materials, such as ceramic, wood, and rattan. That means you can get the same great finishes, colors, and designs as heavier planters but at a significantly lower cost.

The new Feather-Lite Series from Dynamic Design, for instance, combines authentic-looking bamboo, wood, and rattan strips to complement any tropical décor. For a more formal appearance, the Ceramic-Lite Series simulates the one-of-a-kind appearance of fired ceramic — without the excess weight.

* Choose the Right Soil and Fertilizer

There are a variety of potting soil mixes specially balanced for the types of plants most often used in a container garden. Since many of these are slightly acidic, it’s often helpful to add a little lime to the soil.

Because it’s important to ensure a planting medium that drains rapidly, yet retains enough moisture to keep roots evenly moist, many potting soil mixes contain special wetting agents. A growing variety of soil-less mixes have also been developed to help fight off soil-borne disease and insects. Compost is also highly recommended as an excellent natural potting soil. Or, for a more hands-on experience, you can create your own potting mixture by combining equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil and peat moss.

Next, consider the type of fertilizer to be used. Containers tend to drain the soil rapidly, which means fertilizer can be washed out of the container before it benefits the plant. Liquid fertilizers should be used, preferably at every other watering. Check the individual nutrient needs of your plant when selecting a fertilizer.

* Choose the Right Plant and Location

Properly prepared with the right container, soil, and fertilizer, the next important decision is what to plant. The final choice comes down to personal preference and the type of atmosphere you want to create. Petunias, impatiens, periwinkles and geraniums do especially well in containers and add dramatic color to any area.

To create a more peaceful, reflective environment, you might want to consider bonsai trees, small ferns, or ornamental grasses. Or you might consider something more useful, such as an herb garden, which could include such basics as basil, fennel, oregano, and mint.

Most important in your decision of what to plant is compatibility with your chosen location. As a general rule, most container gardens need at least five hours of direct sunlight each day. Leafy vegetables, like cabbage and lettuce, do well with more shade, while fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, need considerably more sun. Flower requirements depend on the variety. If you’re gardening indoors, look for sunny locations near windows and doorways, or carefully choose plants that can tolerate low natural light conditions.

There are no limits to what you can achieve with container gardening — only your imagination. With just a little bit of knowledge, you can easily transform even the smallest area into an oasis of color and beauty.

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Article Source: ARA Content



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