Container gardening provides the versatility of incorporating greenery in our man-made landscape. Read mote to learn about this.
A container plant brightens up any space with its lively colours, whether it is a terrace, balcony, porch, driveway or even our interiors. Place a plant next to a door for a welcoming entrance; or in a monotonous balcony to spring it back to life; even right outside the kitchen for some handy vegetables; or in your living room to create a relaxing ambience. Include some adorable hanging baskets and window boxes to add a vibrant European-accent to your living space.
It is much simpler to plant in a container than planting on the ground as it doesn’t require digging up the soil. Besides, container-plants are easier to maintain as they can be protected from harsh climates. Whether it is too hot or freezing cold, too much rain or a stormy weather; they can be easily moved to a safer location. Moreover, you can always carry your ‘mobile garden’ along, whenever you relocate.
Container Gardening- How to grow plants in containers?
- Selecting a container
Select the size of the container according to the plant you wish to grow in it. Annuals such as Marigolds can be grown in smaller pots (about 8 inches in diameter) while perennials like Areca palm should be grown in larger pots (size greater than 12 inches). Also, smaller pots dry out quicker, needing frequent watering. One can choose from a wide range of pots depending on the material, size, design and cost.
- Terracotta pot: This pot is favoured for its classic rugged look. Its porous surface is healthy for a plant as it allows the roots to breathe besides keeping the soil cool.
- Concrete pot: It is commonly available due to its low cost. For larger plants, I always prefer concrete pots due to its durability and large available sizes. However, handle it with care since they are quite heavy.
- Plastic pot: It comes in a variety of pleasing shapes and colours. Besides being long-lasting, it is light-weight and easy to handle, especially while re-potting. Don’t forget to punch holes in the base for water-outlet before planting.
- Ceramic pot: It comes in several delightful hand-crafted designs. It has a lovely shine as it is made from glazed-clay, unlike a terracotta pot which is made from baked-clay. However, it is often curved inwards from the top, making it difficult to re-pot a plant.
For some of the ‘wild gardeners’ out there, one can grow plants in non-traditional planters such as:
- plastic bottles, containers and buckets,
- thermocol boxes,
- wooden crates and barrels
- tin cans
- even shoes!
(read “Shoe scape” for more on growing plants in shoes )
- Preparing the pot
- Make sure that the pot has a proper drainage hole (about the thickness of your finger) at the bottom. Place some pebbles over it for good drainage since mud can block the hole.
- One can paint the pot and get creative with colours and designs. However, take care not to paint the insides of a pot as chemicals from the paint may mix with the soil.
- Preparing the soil
- Silt and loamy-soil is considered the best for growing plants because of its rich nutrient content and nice porous texture.
- Soil rich in clay content is heavy and dense, inhibiting the roots from breathing. Make it porous by mixing it with organic matter and sand.
- Loose sandy-soil doesn’t retain water for long and dries out quickly. Mix clayey or loamy-soil with it to make it more compact.
- Add organic fertilizer to the soil such as vermi-compost, manure, etc., as it decomposes slowly providing nutrients for a long time, besides keeping the soil porous.
(read “Organic fertilizer” for more information on organic fertilizers)
- Add plenty of organic matter with the soil like shredded leaves or vegetable peel, which enriches its humus content along with improving moisture retention and porosity. Take care not to place it too close to the roots of the plant to avoid fungal infections.
- Removing the nursery-plant
- Water the plant lightly before removing it from its nursery-packaging (packet or a pot). Watering enables the soil to get soft and compact preventing any root damage while transplanting.
- Peel off the packet with scissors. Instead of pulling the plant out, remove the packet from below and support the base of the plant with your hand.
- In case of a pot, tilt the plant, supporting the top-soil with one hand. Now gently knock the plant out with the other hand. You could tap the sides to make the soil loose.
- Never try to take the plant out by pulling from its stem because the weight of the soil might split apart the roots from the stem, killing the plant.
- Planting in a pot
- Place the plant at a level close to the top surface of the pot. Fill the remaining volume with soil.
- Gently shake the pot to pack the soil together. Add more soil if needed. However, don’t press the soil to make it dense. Let it be loose to enable the roots to breath.
- Fill the soil till about 1 inch from the top, to avoid water or soil from spilling out.
- Finally, lightly sprinkle the soil with water to keep it moist and porous.
- Organic Mulching
Gardeners are very fond of laying organic mulch over the soil. This is because:
- Organic mulch decomposes slowly, recharging the nutrient content in the soil.
- It keeps the top-soil porous, allowing the roots to breathe.
- By covering the exposed top-soil, it inhibits the growth of weeds.
- It retains the moisture content of the soil by reducing water-loss through evaporation.
- It insulates the soil from extreme temperatures. It protects the cold-sensitive plants from shedding its leaves due to frost.
Here is a list of items that can be used for organic mulching:
- shredded leaves
- wood chips
- grass clippings
- cocoa shells
- saw dust
One can choose to decorate the margins of the topsoil with colourful stones and marbles.
That’s it! Your container plant is ready to grow. For a thriving plant, place it in the right spot where it gets adequate amount of sunlight.
Why Container Gardening?
Container gardening lets us grow plants where it is not physically possible. It provides a practical solution to augment the scarce vegetation in the concrete landscapes of urban areas. In the recent drive for “Urban Farming”, which spreads from Bangalore to New York, container gardening is the way forward for bringing about food-security in urban areas.