5 useful tips for first-time container gardeners
Container gardening is popular for many reasons. Find out if this convenient approach is right for you.
Courtesy Frank and Bev Baughn
Container gardening is practiced among people of all ages and living spaces. It is a perfect starting point for children or beginners; it’s great for renters or people with limited space; and it’s manageable for those with limited leisure time.
Containers can be as attractive and elegant as colorful glazed pots or decorative window boxes, or as whimsical as an old wheelbarrow or leather boots.They not only add to the decor of an outdoor living space, such as a patio, but also have the added advantage of portability.
Essentially, anything that can hold soil and allows for good drainage can be converted into a planter. Imagination is the only limitation.
1. Choose a container
The container you select must drain well. Use only potting soil, as any other materials that are added to the bottom, such as gravel, will adversely affect drainage. And, light-colored pots stay much cooler in the summer than those of darker shades.
2. Select the proper soil
Proper selection of potting soil is very important. Pick a trusted brand. For best results, select a mix that drains well, holds moisture and is porous enough to allow for good air and water movement. Most commercial soils will contain variable mixes of compost, peat moss, sand, vermiculite and other materials and have a properly adjusted soil pH. Caution: Do not use soil from the garden as it might contain disease and will likely not drain well.
3. Be aware of watering needs
Containers tend to dry out very quickly and will need frequent irrigation. Therefore, a daily check of your containers, especially in the hottest months, is a must.
To determine when it’s time to water, here’s a fun little trick if you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty. Stick your finger into the soil about 2 inches deep. If it’s dry near the tip of your finger, it’s time to water. Enough water should be added until it drains from the bottom of the pot. Careful, though, as over-watering will suffocate roots. Discard the drainage water, as it contains undesirable fertilizer residues, which may be harmful to your plants if not removed. If all of this seems like too much guesswork, install a simple drip-irrigation system or just use a self-watering container.
4. Feed your plants with the right supplements and fertilizer
All plants have individual needs for fertilizer, and most good soils will have proper nutrients already added. But, supplementing with a balanced fertilizer, such as Osmocote, is quite alright. Once plants begin growing and bearing fruit, use a liquid fertilizer once every 2-3 weeks. Do not overdo it because too much nitrogen fertilizer can be harmful, especially to tomatoes.
5. Start with vegetables and herbs in your container garden
Many types of vegetables and most herbs lend themselves well to this type of gardening. Children love it! Nothing tastes better than home-grown tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, squash and salad greens. Vegetables do grow rapidly and need regular fertilization and plenty of sunshine. Pick plants that have similar growing requirements, such as water and fertilizer needs.
Container gardening has unlimited possibilities that fit into most gardeners’ plans, not only for attractive flowers, but also for many types of vegetables. So, for those who don’t want to create and maintain a larger garden, containers might just be the answer for both the young and the not-so-young at heart.
Thank you to Tulsa County Master Gardeners for their expertise in this subject matter. Allen Robinson has been a Master Gardener since 2010.
Lunch and Learn with Tulsa Master Gardeners
March 20 — Container gardens for vegetables; minimizing pitfalls
March 27 — Seed saving
April 3 — Tomatoes
April 10 — Annuals and perennials for shade; solutions for landscape difficulties
April 17 — Growing vegetables and herbs
April 24 — Fruit trees
Bring your lunch. Free admission. 12:10-12:50 p.m. at Central Library, 400 Civic Center. Visit tulsamastergardeners.org for more information.