15 tips for creating and maintaining successful container gardens

Picking the right plant, soil and fertilizer for the pot.
January, 2013
  • University of Illinois Extension
  • container gardening
  • Seminis
  • container gardens
  • edibles
  • Edibles and container gardening are hot, especially for people who live areas with little green space and soil. But it’s important that gardeners select the proper plants that can thrive in a limited space.

    Seed companies are developing vegetable seeds specifically bred for container gardens to meet the growing demand and interest, says Seminis Home Gardens.

    “Today’s container gardeners now have access to even more plants that are compact in size, yield more, taste great and feature unique colors and shapes,” says John Marchese, sales manager for Seminis Home Garden seed.

    “Just because they are using a smaller space to grow the plant doesn’t mean the fruit has to be small too,” John says. “For example, if container gardeners are looking for a compact plant that produces large and tasty tomatoes, they should try a new hybrid tomato variety called Debut.”

    Seminis Home Garden shared tips from the University of Illinois Extension for picking the right plants, soil and fertilizer, and how to maintain container gardens. Check out their suggestions below.

    Choosing a Container

    • Anything that holds soil and has drainage holes in the bottom may be transformed into a container garden for terrestrial plants.
    • For vibrant plant growth, the containers must provide adequate space for roots and soil media, allowing the plant to thrive.

    Soil

    • When choosing what to use to fill containers, never use garden soil by itself, no matter how good it looks or how well things grow in it out in the garden.
    • Container soils are often referred to as soilless or artificial media, because they contain no soil at all.
    • When these mixes are used, they should be moistened slightly before planting. Fill a tub with the media, add water and lightly fluff the media to dampen it.
    • When filling containers with media, don't fill the pot to the top. Leave about a one inch space between the top of the soil and rim of the pot. 
    • Soils for containers need to be well aerated and well drained while still being able to retain enough moisture for plant growth.

    Fertilizer

    • A regular fertilizer program is needed to keep plants growing well and attractive all season.
    • The choice of fertilizer analysis will depend on the kinds of plants you are growing. High nitrogen sources would be good for plants grown for their foliage while flowering and vegetable crops would prefer lower nitrogen and higher phosphorous types.

    Choosing Plants for Your Container Garden

    • Plants that thrive in like soil, watering, and light conditions make successful combinations. When combining plants, size, texture, proportion, color, setting and lighting all play a role.

    Taking Care of Your Vegetable Plants

    • Containers offer the advantage of being portable. As the seasons, temperature and light conditions change, you can move your containers to maintain the desired conditions for peak performance.
    • Most fruit bearing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and eggplant require full sun.
    • Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, mustard greens, spinach and parsley can tolerate more shady locations compared to the root vegetables such as turnips, beets, radishes, carrots and onions.
    • There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to watering. That is why you have to watch your containers on a regular basis and understand the requirements of the plants you choose to put in the containers.
    • The best way to tell if a plant needs water is to feel the soil. And if the first inch or so of the soil is dry, water. Use enough water each time so water starts to drip out of the drainage holes. 
    For more information, visit the University of Illinois Extension at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/containergardening or Seminis at www.seminis.com.

    Photo courtesy of Seminis.
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