Make your container garden grow

By Dawn Pettinelli - UConn Home & Garden Education Center
Home & Garden - posted Wed., Apr. 11, 2012
- Contributed Photo

Plants can be grown in almost any type of container. Plastic and clay pots are the most common, but there are wonderful decorative cement pots, urns and troughs.

The most important consideration in choosing a container is drainage. Preferably, the pots should have drainage holes. If not, placing an inch or so of small stones or foam packing peanuts in the bottom will usually suffice. The smaller the container, the more frequently you will have to water, especially in sun.

Like your choice of containers, the varieties of plants you can grow are numerous. Medium, low-growing and trailing varieties are best suited to most containers. A general rule of thumb is that the tallest mature plant should be no more than one and a half times the container height.

Annuals, vegetables, herbs and summer flowering bulbs are all excellent candidates for container gardening. For sunny spots, try marigolds, petunias, alyssum, annual vinca, portulaca, verbena, dianthus, gazania, nolana, pansies or nasturtiums.

If you have a kitchen window box, why not plant some herbs that will always be within reach for flavoring or garnish? Bush basil, tricolor or golden sage, rosemary, parsley and thyme are just a sampling of herbs easily grown.

Many compact vegetable varieties are suitable for window boxes or containers. Patio tomatoes, lettuce, bush green beans, compact summer squash varieties and eggplants lend themselves nicely to container growing.

Commercial soilless potting mixes are your best choice for container gardening. They are light-weight and they drain well. Because of frequent watering, nutrients are readily leached from the growing medium. Fertilize weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer mixed according to the directions, or add a time release fertilizer such as Osmocote to the mix before planting. Water whenever the soil feels dry, which may be every day during hot weather.

Do not be afraid to remove plants during the growing season if they look unattractive. Slip in a new replacement to keep containers attractive all summer long.

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