Thursday, June 12, 2014

Garden Accents: 7 Tips for Successful Container Gardening

Even if you do not have a yard or access to a community-garden plot, you can still enjoy a bountiful produce harvest all on your own. Planting a container garden is a great option if you have temporary or limited space. Another plus with using planters for a container garden is that they can be very effective garden accents, adding color and life to your outdoor space. Here are seven tips to help you get successfully start a container garden.
Tip #1: Use a Big and Deep Container
Do not be tempted to get those cute small containers, as these are mostly for ornamental purposes; plants require deep root space for them to grow properly. If you use a small container, your plants will end up stunted and unhealthy. Look for containers that are at least 10 inches wide and 10 inches deep, like the Large Rectangle Rolled Rim Planter - Pietra by Alfresco Home. You can get away with smaller containers for lettuce and other salad greens for as long as they are harvested at an earlier stage.

Tip #2: Give Good Drainage for Your Plants
Plants require oxygen for respiration in their root systems. There are many containers that do not have holes in the bottom, so they slowly fill up with water. Almost all plants will suffocate or even die of root rot if their containers get filled up with water. If you are using plastic, wooden or metal drums, drill some drainage holes in the base. To prevent soil loss, cover the holes using screen mesh or landscape fabric before you will your container with soil.
Tip #3: Keep Your Plants Well-Watered
There are some kinds of planters that let a lot of air in the sides. The airflow will end up drying the soil quickly, so you will end up watering often. Additional, keep an eye on plants placed on walkways, patios and other surfaces, as these can quickly heat up during sunny days. If there is still space at the top of the planter, add a layer of mulch like coconut fiber, straw, compost or shredded paper to help seal in moisture and prevent rapid evaporation. This way, you can extend the time needed between waterings.
Tip #4: Pick a Light, Airy Soil Mix
Look for a potting mix that has plenty of organic matter, like coconut coir, bark fines, peat or compost. At least one of these should be the first ingredient written in the mix. The potting mix does not have to have soil, although such a word may be used. Organic material absorbs more water than native ground soil, and will give plant roots the structure and aeration that they need. Potting mixes with pumice, perlite or vermiculite also ensures proper aeration.
Tip #5: Fertilize Your Plants Regularly
Unlike their ground-based counterparts, container plants depend on you completely of their nutritional needs. Use a balanced organic fertilizer that contains both macronutrients and micronutrients. If you are growing bushes or small trees in containers, look for a specialty fertilizer that is appropriate for that kind of plant. Scratch the fertilizer into the top few inches of the soil surrounding the plants, so direct contact is avoided with the stems and roots.
Tip #6: Refresh Your Soil Every Year
Every spring before planting, remove the top few inches of soil from the planter, add new soil mix, and fertilize again. Doing so will keep your soil new and fertile. Permanent container plants, like bushes and small trees, has to be removed every few years and root pruned so they do not strangle themselves. As much as possible, do this while the plant is dormant. Use a utility knife to cut off a few inches of root material from every side of the plant, add new potting mix, return the plant to the container and water it well. Regular root pruning prevents plants from being root bound.
Tip #7: Get Some Wheels
Containers that are filled with wet soil can be very heavy, but you might have to have to move your plants to overwinter them, or take advantage of the shifting sunlight patterns throughout the year. You might also want to move them if you are going through a redecoration of your garden plants. Planter stands that come with wheels are widely available in many nurseries, and they will prevent you from breaking your back when moving time comes.
Planters are widely available today, and you can take your pick from a wide variety of materials, styles and colors. One popular style are the double-purpose planters, like the Table Top Planter & Beverage Cooler - Cognac by Alfresco Home, which work as both a planter and a beverage cooler.

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