We often speak about container gardening … things like how to design a container, how plant a container, how to pick the right container and how to care for planted containers but over the years, we have never written a blog about actual containers themselves.
Let’s talk about pots. What makes a good pot for container gardening? What disqualifies a pot as a good container?
There are a few things to consider when deciding on the best pot for your gardening project:
- Drainage: Always check the bottom of a container to see that there are drainage holes or even 1 fairly large drainage hole. The reason that drainage holes are important is basically two fold. First, they allow for excess water to drain out when you have watered. Having water drain out of the pot is a good indicator that it is adequately hydrated. And if water isn’t allowed to drain out of the pot, your container garden could turn into a swimming pool. Another thing that could happen is that soil and fertilizer salts could accumulate and eventually do harm to the plant and compromise its growth.
- Size: Always try to match the container size with the space needs of the mature plant. Plants will always grow to their pot size. If the container is too small, root growth will be restricted and nutrient availability will be insufficient for robust growth, which will result in a smaller plant, and plants competing for space and stretching.
- If the plant is large and tall like a tomato, for example, it will need a large container so that there is enough room for its roots to grow and plenty of soil to hold adequate amounts of water for its metabolic needs. In the case of a tomato being planted in a container that is too small, it will need to be watered 2 or 3 times a day during very hot conditions. It’s always good to avoid this kind of a scenario.
- Other than vigorous growers like tomatoes and bananas, most bedding plants don’t need more than 12-14 inches of soil depth. When we plant huge containers in the greenhouse, like pots 3-4 feet wide by the same height, we usually fill the bottom half of the container with Styrofoam. This makes the container lighter to move, more economical, and the plants don’t need 3 feet worth of potting soil. This also keeps the soil draining well, rather than collecting gallons of water in the unnecessary soil.
- Pot Component Material
- Plant containers come in different materials – they are most commonly available in ceramic, plastic, and wood. They are all beautiful and creative. Deciding which type of pot is a decision based on aesthetics, practicality, and cost.
- Ceramic pots come in unglazed and glazed versions. Typically the glazed finish lasts better through our winters, but be careful to check on those details before buying. Ceramic pots can stay beautiful for years, but the downside is that they are heavy. Many people decide to keep their ceramic pot in place and plant plastic liners to fit inside, and other people plant their ceramic pots right on location. Another disadvantage to ceramic is that they are costly, but that being said they can last for a very long time.
- Plastic containers in various weights have become very versatile, mimicking the look of ceramic and yet can be very modern in appearance. Plastic containers are light weight, last a long time, are less expensive, and hold water well.
- Wooden containers have a rustic appearance and can be made at home to match specific needs. They are great for raised bed gardening, too. Be sure to use untreated lumber, just in case there could be some leaching into the plants & vegetables. Wood does have a life limit and eventually breaks down over time. Using a plastic liner or garbage bags to line the wood can extend their longevity.
From that point on, the challenge to container gardening is deciding on colour and style you would like for your gardening space. Another challenge is how to fill them … check out our blog called About Soil.