How to grow a container garden: 10 tips

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container garden collage

Growing food or flowers in containers is a great way to fit gardening into your life. Poor soil quality or lack of sunny space for an in-ground garden can’t stop container gardeners! Container gardens can be grown anywhere, by gardeners of all skill levels and ability- no rototiller required.

10 tips to grow food or flowers in containers

1. Pick plants. A mix of tall, medium height and trailing plants makes an impression. Free container garden information and blueprints at http://extension.illinois.edu/containergardening. When combining plants be sure to pick varieties with similar sun and water requirements.

herb

Herbs grow great in containers. Small, short vege varieties like mini zucchini, determinate type tomatoes and bush pea plants work well in containers.

2. Choose containers. Hanging baskets, plastic and ceramic pots are popular, but any container can be turned into a planter as long as you add drainage. Grow vining vegetables in a fabric pocket hung on a trellis. Plant flowers in an old crate or dresser drawer.

feed bagI like to repurpose materials I find laying around the farm. Add drainage to a unique coffee can by poking holes in the bottom with a nail. I turn empty feed bags into front porch planters!

3. Select a light weight potting medium with good drainage and aeration. Add just enough medium to the container to hold plants in place.

4. Carefully remove plants from plastic trays. Try not to disturb roots.

5. Set plants in container. Fill in with potting medium.

6. Water new plant. Container gardens need frequent watering, nearly every day. Stick your finger in the potting medium to test moisture and water as required.

7. If you plan to grow vegetables and your container garden is located indoors or in a protected area away from wind and pollinators, you’ll need to hand-pollinate plants in order for plants to produce fruit.

Gently shake tomato and pepper plants a few times weekly. Pollinate mini zucchini or other squash and cucumber plants by moving pollen from male to female flowers with a paintbrush.

feed bag

8. Contained plants need regular feeding. Home brewed compost tea is my fertilizer of choice. Commercial slow-release and liquid fertilizers formulated for container gardens can be purchased. Feed plants every 2-3 weeks or as package describes.

9. Make sure your plants get the recommended level of sunlight.

10. Groom plants by pinching tips to control height and deadheading spent flowers. Provide support and prune plants as required. Regular grooming keeps plants healthy and your container garden looking sharp.

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