Container Gardening Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Container Gardening Frequently Asked Questions

Many People are requesting to publish the Container Gardening Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

  1. What is container gardening?

This is a practice of growing all varieties of plants in containers instead of planting them on the ground. The container used for the purpose of growing plants can be anything that is enclosed, small and portable such as a tub, basket or barrel. Sometimes large pots are also used for container gardening.

  1. What can be grown in a container garden?

It is advised to start growing simple things first, such as something from the kitchen shelf, i.e. coriander, fenugreek, chilli, etc. If one is confident about the growing procedures and care required for container gardening then they can proceed to plant vegetables and fruits of their choice. It is observed that almost all vegetables can be grown in containers.

  1. Do we need holes in the pots or containers?

One hole at the bottom of the container is a critical requirement because it allows the soil to drain freely and also keeps the roots aerated. Most of the plants do need well-drained conditions, but there are few exceptions like shoreline plants which settle well in wet soil and do not need drainage. It should always be remembered that a container with a hole is always a better and safer option to choose. If there is no hole in it, then figure out a way to make a hole in it.

  1. What kind of soil is best for growing vegetables in containers?

The soil that is best suited for container gardening is the one that drains well, is properly aerated and maintains a neutral pH. Potting mixture along with the soil offers all the above features necessary for container gardening. The potting mixture contains organic matter such as peat moss, compost, bark chips, etc. to provide nutrients to the soil. If the mixture is supplied with vermiculite or Perlite, then it aerates the soil and helps retain moisture for a longer duration of time. Soil mixtures without the vermiculite can be used exclusively for growing herbs. Another advantage of potting mixtures is that they are free of weeds, seeds, pests, and diseases because they are heated when they are processed.

  1. Why is the depth of the container important factor for planting?

Roots are always the most important part of the plant and need space to grow. Restricting the growth of the roots can affect the ability of the plant to grow and develop properly. The depth of the container provides room for the roots to grow and retains more soil moisture than shallow containers. Another important point to remember is that containers with more depth facilitate more space on the sides and bottom so that the roots are protected from hot and cold temperatures.

  1. What should be the depth of the container for vegetables?

The depth of the container depends on the type of vegetable being farmed. In general, the depth of the container should be around 6 to 8 inches for vegetables like turnips, cucumbers, broccoli, beet, lettuce, and green onions. The depth of the container for vegetables like cabbage should be approximately around 10 inches. Containers having a depth of 12 inches are used for growing vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, peppers, etc. One important tip to remember while planting vegetables is to leave a space of 2 inches on the sides and 6 inches on the bottom for the roots of the plant.

  1. What should be the depth of the container for flowers?

Annual flowering plants have a shallow root system and need a container depth of 8 inches, but perennial plants like bulbs need containers with a depth of 14 inches. Before starting a container garden, it is recommended to read the instruction on the package for proper planting depths.

  1. What should be the depth of the container for herbal plants?

The roots are very important for herbal plants and the depth of the container should be 6 to 8 inches. Plants that are taller than normal like the fennel need a container with a depth of 10 inches.

  1. How does one grow plants in a container?

The right plants for growing in containers should be chosen and then the appropriate size and type of container is obtained. The containers should have the proper drainage facility and material of the container should be such that they are less porous. Proper soil for the plants and regular supply of water and fertilizers can help grow plants in containers. It is important to note that planting in containers should be done with care, such that the plants are not overcrowded and there is sufficient room for the roots to develop.

  1. Can succulents be planted in pots without holes?

Succulents grow well in porous and well-drained soils, so obviously they need a pot with a hole. To provide better drainage, gravel or expanded shale could be added at the bottom of the container where the succulents are being planted. If a pot does not have a hole in it, then possibly it can be used for planting succulents, but should not be placed under rain or drowning conditions.

  1. How can one make the soil pots drain better?

Drainage is required for plants because if this is not provided, the airspace in within the soil is filled with water and plants are devoid of oxygen. To prevent this situation, containers are provided with proper draining facilities. Holes in the container depending on its size and also on the type of plant being raised. It is important to note that containers with 6 inches diameter need one hole to drain water sufficiently, but larger containers may need additional holes. The no. of holes in the container should be odd in number like one, three, five etc. A small wire mesh screen is placed on the hole to prevent soil from escaping from the container. The choice of the potting mixture also should be such that it drains fast. Perlite increases the porosity of the soil.

  1. Can peat moss be mixed with potting soil?

Peat moss is considered to be an important component of most potting soils because it helps to release moisture to the roots of the plant. It also holds the nutrients in the soil and prevents them from getting washed away during watering. The amount of peat moss in the total potting mixture should be around one-third or two-thirds of the entire volume of the mixture.

  1. How long does potting soil last and how can we store it?

If potting soil is unused, then it lasts for 6 months before degrading in quality. If potting soil is being used in the containers, then it should be replaced every year or two. The soil is stored in containers with lids and far away from heat and humidity. Potting soil is placed in bags and dumped into galvanized can or plastic bin. The container, which is used to store potting mixture or soil should be kept away from direct sunlight and rain so as to limit the bacterial growth in the soil.

  1. What quantity of vegetables or fruits can be expected from a container garden?

It is expected that if the total area utilized under container gardening is around 1 sqm of soil, then one can expect around 25-50 kg of vegetables in a year and most probably 6 types of vegetables can be grown in a season.

  1. Can we use gravel at the bottom of the pot or container?

It is a wrong belief that a layer of gravel inside the pot liners just beneath the soil improves the drainage facility rather the extra water gets collected above the gravel layer until the entire air space if full. Once the air space within the soil gets filled up with water, then it drains into the gravel. So it is clear that gravel at the bottom of the container helps a little to keep the soil from being saturated by overwatering.

  1. How does one plant in a container?

Planting the required plant into the container can be done efficiently with the following steps:

  • Wash the pot or container before planting.
  • The potting mixture should be dampened after putting it in the container.
  • The containers should be partially filled with the potting mixture.
  • Plants should be gently moved to the container from their previous location and if they are rooted strongly, then it is recommended to loosen the roots before planting.
  • The plant should be placed 1 or 2 inches below the rim of the container.
  • The remaining space in the container should be filled with a potting mixture and packed gently around the plant.
  • Water the plants gently with kelp extract or compost tea.
  • If mulch is available, then add it to the top of the container.
  1. What plants are best to grow in pots under the full sun?

Some plants need bright sunlight for proper growth and can be planted in containers at home. These full sun border plants are Shasta daisy, lavender, hibiscus, roses, daylily, butterfly weed, blanket flower, Russian sage, sunflower, marigold, geranium, zinnia, coleus etc.

  1. What vegetables grow well together in containers?

The vegetable plants that show better results when grown in containers are tomatoes, beans, lettuce, pepper and chillies, radish, Asian greens, spinach, peas, carrots, cucumber, eggplant, squash, kale, chard, mustard greens, garlic, rhubarb, bitter gourd, okra, and collard greens.

  1. What type of containers should be used?

For container gardening, different types, sizes, and shapes of containers can be used. The material of containers should be plastic, ceramic, metal or mud. Some people also recycle the things lying uselessly at their home like coke bottles, takeaway plastic boxes, coconut shells, old broken buckets, dented kitchen pots etc.

  1. What is the importance of potting mix?

The importance of potting mix while container gardening can be defined as:

  • Holds moisture and nutrients for the plants and acts as a reservoir of required elements in the container.
  • Allows the roots of the plants to breathe so that they don’t rot easily.
  • Soil with potting mix provides a support system for the plants during heavy wind or rain.
  1. What are the properties of potting soil or how should one choose a potting soil?

The general rules of thumb for choosing potting soil are as follows:

  • The soil should be light and fluffy.
  • It should be made of peat moss, pine bark, Perlite or vermiculite.
  • Fertilizer should be added to the soil such that the nutrients are slowly released into it.
  • Potting soil could be treated for good moisture retention and the method of watering may change depending on the substances used for the treatment of the soil.
  1. How does one revive old potting soil and can it be reused?

The potting mix or soil can be re-used so as to avoid wastage of valuable resources and the following ways can be used to revive the potting mix:

  • Adding new ingredients like pre-soaked coir, seaweed and molasses to help increase its moisture retention capacity. Substances like vermiculite can also be added to improve drainage, nutrient retention, insulation, and aeration. Addition of compost and worm castings increases the healthy microbes in the old potting soil.
  • All the washed away minerals from the potting mix are replenished back by the addition of slow-release powdered organic fertilizers such as soft rock phosphate, rock minerals or mineral fertilizers.
  • To revitalize entire pot contents, it should be completely removed and replaced with a refreshed potting mix otherwise another way to replenish the required contents is to just top the soil with a new refreshed mix.
  • If there are ruts or areas in the container that are subject to runoff, then these can be filled with the new potting soil.
  • Adding the poor potting mix to the hot compost system improves the health of the mix and turns it into rich living humus full of nutrients.
  • This light potting mix can be added to heavy clayey soils to improve their structure and drainage.

Read: Rooftop Farming.

  1. What is moisture retaining treatment?

The treatment is done to help reduce the watering cycle of the plants, but it works only for a maximum of 3 to 4 weeks and then the condition of the soil gets back to normal. When the soil is treated with these substances, extra care should be taken so as to keep the watering time limited. The treatment involves adding gels and chemicals to the soil so that it retains water for a long time without drying.

  1. What is the difference between fertilizer starter charge and slow release fertilizer?

The minimum amount of fertilizer required in the potting mixture while planting is called a starter charge. This minimum amount is never sufficient for the plants to grow and develop because it gets washed away after two or three watering cycles. Later on, depending on the requirement, additional fertilizers could be added.

Slow release fertilizers are incorporated into the soil in more quantity so that it helps the plants to transit well from old soil conditions to new soil conditions. As the name indicates, they release the required nutrients slowly into the soil but last for only about a month. So, even this has to be supplemented with additional fertilizers regularly. Using slow-release fertilizers needs extra care because it is observed that if the fertilizer with the potting mix is wet or has been sitting for a long time prior to planting, then it releases too much nitrogen which could be harmful to the plants.

  1. What are the supplies needed for container gardening?

The materials needed for a successful container gardening are:

  • Hand Weeder
  • Watering can
  • Plant containers
  • Egg carton (for sprouting seeds)
  • Seeds and potting soil
  • Fertilizers
  1. What are the benefits of container gardening?

Container gardening is considered an alternative to gardening in the ground for many reasons such as:

  • Any time gardening
  • Less space occupancy
  • Suitable for novice gardeners
  • Portable garden as pots can be moved anywhere
  • No labor required for tilling
  • Saves water
  • Saves fertilizers
  • Easy to control pests
  • A garden can be arranged as one likes
  • Harvesting is also easier
  • Growing conditions could be adjusted
  • The growing medium can also be selected upon one’s own interest
  • Easy to change from one container to another (instant makeover)
  1. What is the difference between garden soil and potting mix?

The potting mix does not have too much organic content in it because it is a form of manufactured soil type. Its biggest advantage is moisture retention, especially for container gardening systems, but as the soil ages, it becomes dry and starts repelling water. Topping the potting mix with some organic material when it gets dry can improve the soil condition within the container.

Garden soil added with topsoil (50: 50) is used for open locations rather than containers because they have too much moisture retention ability in containers, which is not suitable for potted plants. Moreover, the topsoil pulls away from the sides of the container upon drying and also some types of garden soil contain clay, which is too heavy for containers because they settle and compact like concrete.

  1. What should be the minimum pH level of the soil for growing vegetables and herbs in a container?

It should be noted that most of the vegetables and herbal plants need a pH range of 6.2 to 6.8 for survival because at this level adequate uptake of minerals is possible from the soil and also the soil tends to have a healthy microbe population. If this pH is not available, then one can add dry organic substances to balance it.

  1. Is it better to use transplants or seeds for container gardening?

The use of transplants or seeds is decided depending on the type of plants one wants to grow. Transplants are used if someone wants to have a quick start for plants like tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cabbage, etc. whereas seeds work better for plants for lettuce, radish, carrots, spinach etc.

  1. How often do we need to water the plants in a pot?

The obvious answer is that water is supplied to the plants only when it is needed. Testing the dampness of the soil with a finger is necessary before watering the plants. Pots should be placed in an open space where there is a possibility of rain. Plants should be watered adequately in the summer with an interval of 3 days between each watering cycle.

  1. How often should the plants in the containers be fertilized?

Generally, the label on the fertilizer pack indicates feeding the plants every 10 days, but that is never enough. So the recommended dose of fertilizer is to be supplied every four or five days. Fertilizers with low nitrogen and high phosphorous and potassium content so that there is good bloom throughout the year. Flower booster chemicals can be added during the flowering season. It is important to note that the soil should never be fertilized when it is dry otherwise it may burn the plants.

  1. What could be the common mistakes while growing plants in a container?

The common mistakes while growing plants in containers are:

  • Overwatering
  • Underwatering
  • No drainage
  • Not fertilizing properly
  • Not providing enough sunlight

Read: Growing Asparagus In Pots, Containers.

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