container gardening

JACKSONVILLE — Now that we’ve hit April, the gardening season is starting to pick up speed. For many of us, that means getting back into the garden and weeding, replacing mulch, planting and dividing plants. If you don’t have a lot of space or have nowhere to plant plants in the ground and want to get in on the gardening action, consider creating a container garden.

Almost anything you can grow in the garden can also be grown in a container. You just need to provide your plants with a few basic needs – a container, growing medium, water, nutrients, and light. When growing plants in a container, here are some things to consider:

  • Anything that can hold soil and have drainage can be used to grow plants. It can be a jug from the store, a bucket, a carton of milk, or even a shoe or an old toilet. However, if you’re going to be growing something you plan to eat, it’s best to stick with a more traditional pot.
  • Whatever container you use, make sure the container has drainage holes, and if not, make some. Also, make sure your container will be large enough to support your plant once it is fully grown.
  • When choosing a growing medium for your container, you should choose something that is airy, drains well, and can hold enough water for the plant to grow. Soilless media are generally the best option for container gardening. They consist of peat, vermiculite, bark, coconut and/or perlite. These can be purchased commercially as all-purpose potting soils, or you can make your own.
  • Avoid using garden soil; they can contain weed seeds and pathogens and often don’t drain well enough to be used in containers.
  • Providing your plants with enough water is vital for success. Growing medium in containers dries out much faster than soil in the ground. Plant water needs vary, but a general rule is that plants should be watered when the top inch or so of your growing medium appears dry. Water the plants thoroughly until water begins to flow out of the drainage holes. In hot, dry weather, you may need to water your containers more than once a day.
  • Soilless media are generally poor in nutrients. For this reason, plants growing there may need fertilizing at some point. You can use slow-release or liquid fertilizers. Be sure to follow label directions when applying fertilizer to avoid damaging your plants.
  • It is important to know the light needs of your plants (full sun, partial shade or shade). Most vegetables and annual flowers need full sun (at least six hours) to grow properly. Other plants can be scorched by too much bright light. Many plants will come with labels indicating their light needs.
  • Before planting, make sure to thoroughly wet your growing medium. Then fill your container. Leave about an inch of space between the edge of your container and the floor. This will help prevent water from overflowing your container.

Good growing tip of the week: You can do without the pot completely and grow your (annual) plants directly in a bag of soil. Lay your bag of potting soil on the ground, cut a hole in the top for your plants and plant them directly into the substrate (be sure to make drainage holes in the bottom).

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