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The Art and Science of Container Gardening

The Art and Science of Container Gardening  4/19/19One question I like to ask my avid gardener friends these days is, “Are you going to plant your potatoes on Good Friday this year?”  Alphonse Schreiner and all the others I’ve asked so far this year have assured me, “it’s not going to happen.”

If you don’t have space for a garden, or if you won’t have access to your garden plot as soon as you’d like this spring, you may want to consider container gardening.

Today’s container gardening is something that gardeners of all ages, from grandchildren to grandmothers and everyone in between, can carry out easily.

Just about anything can work as the container for a container garden.  Barrels, bushel baskets, child-sized wagons, discarded watering troughs or attractive containers available at local garden center outlets work well.

When trying to decide what to use for the container and the media for growing plants, keep in mind that one of the advantages of container gardening is its portability. You can move the container into the sun or shade as the mood or weather conditions dictate to meet the plant's needs. While the idea of wading pools for container gardening might sound enticing, their size would keep them from being moved easily.

No matter what the container, be sure it has drainage holes. Without them, the plants within the container will not thrive. Free drainage is a must.  Along with that, the growing medium used in the containers must also have certain characteristics.

For the growing medium, gardeners have at least three choices: make up your own mix from scratch, purchase a commercially available one from the local garden center, or make some modifications to the ones available at retail outlets.

Beginning or inexperienced gardeners sometimes dig soil out of a garden bed and place it in the intended containers, only to be surprised a few weeks later to see their efforts fail. Garden soil should not be used for container gardening because the drainage characteristics are simply not good enough for growing plants in containers.

Most commercial mixes of potting soil use a combination of asbestos-free vermiculite, perlite, sand, sphagnum peat moss, fir bark and redwood sawdust. Modern potting soil media offer big advantages. They come pasteurized, with a balance of micropores and macropores to provide good drainage and yet hold sufficient water for plant use. In addition, most container mixes will have trace amounts of basic plant nutrients, just enough to give them a start without over stimulation of growth.

Next week’s column will focus on watering, fertilizing and pest control in container gardening. 

Source:  The Art and Science of Container Gardening,  Ron Smith, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Extension Horticulture and Turfgrass https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/health-and-nutrition/eatsmart/eat-smart.-play-hard.-magazines-1/2012-esph-magazine/the-art-and-science-of-container-gardening

Photo Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/container-plant-gardening-planting-2379265/ (downloaded 4/23/19)

 

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