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Building a Container Garden

Building a container garden is a great way to grow a small garden when space is limited. The art of small gardens is particularly helpful if you live in the city. Container gardens can be placed almost anywhere and most everything that grows well in a small garden will grow equally well in containers, especially herbs, vegetables, fruit and flowers. Keep in mind there are no such thing as green thumbs. There is only proper living conditions. With a few growing tips on building a container garden and some ideas like shelved units, hooks and outside wall mounts to save some space could get you one show stopping container garden no matter where you live.

Container Garden Soil Mix

As I want to grow a bit of everything and every where I can not possibly bags of soil mix ready made. I buy bulk items when they come on sale and mix my own soils according to what I want to do with it. Never use only black soil that sells for $1 a bag at the hardware store. That soil tends to become over saturated when wet, and then dry out and turn rock hard. It needs to be mixed with vermiculite. Vermiculite absorbs water and makes it available for the roots later on. It also helps prevent soil from becoming hard and compacted. Please note perlite is often used instead of vermiculite, but I hate it. It does not absorb water and it always ends up on the surface of the soil. I think my garden looks sick if I see little white d all over the place. Plus half blind little old neighbors claim my garden is fungus!

This is the container garden potting mix I use:

  • 8 parts potting soil
  • 1 part vermiculite or perlite
  • 1 part coarse sand
  • 3 parts peat moss or coco coir
  • 2 parts compost or composted manure

Lightweight Soil Mix

  • 8 parts potting soil
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part vermiculite
  • 8 parts sphagnum peat moss
  • 1 cup greensand
  • 1 cup gypsum

Greensand increases the soil’s ability to hold moisture. Gypsum can decrease and prevent the crust formation on soil surfaces which result from raindrops or from sprinkler irrigation on unstable soil. It also adds calcium which is needed to fluctuate clay in acid and alkaline soil.

Container Type & Size

Technically any container with holes on the bottom can be used to grow plants. Unfortunately living in the city with neighbors on every side, things can get a little tricky. Always use a container with a big enough saucer under to catch any potential leaks. Watering can also be a pain in the ass if you don’t have access to a hose nearby. I use self watering containers so I only have to fill the “reservoir” once or twice a week.

Small containers, especially ceramic and metal dry up really fast. Use pot covers to protect from the warm sun during heat waves. And use mulch it really helps keep humidity in the soil. As for container size, well it all depends on what plant you are growing. Sometimes I use a 3 gallon container but most of the time 1 and 2 gallon containers are plenty.

If your container is slightly too small, your plant will still grow and produce. It will just need to be watered and fertilized more or the plant will bear less. Check this article for vegetable container size.

Best Fertilizer For Container Gardening

I do everything organic. I find it so much more simple and effective. Halfway during the season I’ll scratch off the top layer of soil and add some compost to fill the container. If my plants look a little out of shape or bloom less, I might add a little organic liquid fertilizer to boost things.

Pruning & Trimming Your Container Garden

Usually pruning and deadheading makes my plants stay vital and lush. Halfway through summer my neighbors plan starts looking tall and leggy and they want to know why. I tell them it’s like hair. You let it grow long and stringy without trimming or feeding. Feed to encourage growth and more blooms. Many plants benefit from trimming away old, dead and damaged branches. The new growth will be more vigorous and compact.

Watering Your Container Garden

Do not let plant stand in old water or the roots will rot. Do not either let the soil become hard so much it’s dry. If it does you can’t just water it well. The water will pass through the cracks and your plant will still have dry roots. Extremely dry pots need to be soaked in water until all the soil is humid. Let excess water seep out and replace outside.

How To Keep Your Container Garden Mess Proof

By mess proof I mean more than leak proof. Check your newly built container garden carefully. When you water the plants, can water spill out the brim? Is there something to catch run off water? Are suspended planters tied securely? Can the wind knock over your plants and make a mess of things? Some people are rude to the point of complaining about the visual appeal of your container garden. Certain municipalities have laws concerning the beauty of their neighborhood. The problem is that the laws are so vague they can interpret them the way they want and for you to remove all your plants and even get fined. The way to avoid this is to keep everything neat and pretty. Use containers in the same style or color. Place them strategically, don’t make it look as if they were just thrown there.

Building a container garden can be fun and rewarding once your garden or flowers start growing and can be visually appealing on your deck or patio. Follow these steps and your garden will flourish! Please leave us a comment below with any questions you might have or with pictures of your own container garden!

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