Tips on Container Gardening

 Most flowers and many vegetables thrive in containers.

The term is a modern one, making the practice sound trendy and new, but the first person who ever put a plant in a pot was a container gardener. Along with most flowers, many vegetables thrive in containers, making is easy for urban gardeners, and anyone who's unable to perform the physical chores of traditional gardening, to literally enjoy the fruits of their own labor.

Choosing a Container

Which comes first, the container or the plant? The answer depends on your goal. If your plan is to arrange a container with plants and flowers for a decorative effect you may start with the container. Select a vessel that complements the style of your porch or patio.

If you have specific plants in mind, select containers based on that plant's needs. For example, carrots are a good choice for container gardening. When planted in the ground, standard-sized carrots need approximately 18 inches of loose, loamy soil. Choose a container that's deep enough to provide the same.

Most vegetables can be grown in a container as long as sunlight and water requirements are met.

Best Vegetables

Some vegetable varieties have been bred especially for patio gardening and many are naturally suited for containers. Patio Princess Tomatoes and all types of grape or cherry tomatoes work well. Leafy vegetables, peppers, zucchini and summer squash also thrive in containers. Vegetables that climb or spread through vines do well in pots as long as they're provided with a trellis. Try lemon cucumbers, pole beans or melon. As long as the water and sunlight requirements are met, there's almost no vegetable that can't be grown in a container. Choose miniature varieties when possible and don't crowd the container with too many plants.

Best Flowers

Generally speaking, annuals are the best choice for container gardening. Annuals have a shallow root system that won't outgrow the limits of a container. Drought-tolerant perennials will also do well; containers tend to dry out so plants that thrive in low-water situations are best. Try hellebore, lavender, sweet potato vine and all types of geranium.

The golden rule for arranging flowering plants in a container is to include a "reacher," a "creeper" and a "filler." In other words, select one tall plant, one full plant and one that will spill over the edge of the container for the most attractive effect. Make sure all the plants have the same sun and water requirements before putting them in one container.

Annuals are the best choice for container gardening.

Remember that the same soil can't be reused year after year in a container. At the end of the season, discard the tired soil and clean and store the planter until it's needed again. Keep perennials healthy in containers with regular feedings, and remove spent blossoms or wilted leaves as they appear.

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