Gardening in Containers

Gardening in Containers

Blue Grass Garden Blog, May 2024

Container gardening is simply defined as growing plants in pots or any vessel that holds growing medium. Gardening in containers has a very versatile and everchanging appeal. Perfect for those with small spaces or balconies, garden containers are suitable to grow all sorts of plant material from big blooming florals to yummy grow-your-own veggies.

The Basics

  1. The container. Container choice depends on use, plant selection, size, and colour. While colour is usually a personal choice, it is an important consideration in one capacity, darker pots may heat up faster in sunny locations, while lighter pots may stay cooler. Size of container needs to also be a significant decision for portability, weight, space, and number of plants. A simple pot of strawberries may only need a 6-inch container, while a combination of several annuals will require at least a 12” container depending on design and plant selections.
  2. Drainage. In conjunction with choosing a container, ensure that your vessel has appropriate drainage. Even with the best of intentions, most plants in containers without drainage will suffer a quick death from overwatering (unless your container is full of water loving beauties) due to rot. While adding rocks or other materials to the bottom of the pot seem a simple solution, it is not the best practice, and it is always better for your plants to have as much soil as possible for deep, healthy root growth.
  3. Soil. Choose appropriate container specific or potting soil for your ceramic, terracotta, wood, or plastic pots (the list could go on). Potting soil suitable for containers should have all the components required for healthy growth – water holding capacity, good drainage, and aeration.  Heavy soil from your gardens will easily compact, become waterlogged and have reduced air space, resulting in poor growth for containerized plants.
  4. The plants. Even when considering plants for your containers and pots, choose the right plant for the right place. Shady cornered pots should be planted up with shade loving plants, and sunny locations can be planted up with sun and heat lovers. Any plants purchased this time of year from a cozy warm greenhouse need to be hardened off (acclimatized to being outdoors).
  5. Water and food. Maintaining container plants requires regular and consistent watering, ensuring enough soil moisture even after rain, with increased frequency in the heat of summer. Use a well-balanced fertilizer weekly for optimum growth, also add a slow-release granular fertilizer to soil at time of planting.

Container Garden Design

Tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, potatoes, and squash, along with most herbs make great container plants, especially if a larger garden is not available. Small root vegetables, beans, and leafy vegetables can also be grown in containers.

Annuals are the most common plants grown in containers for their ultimate show and performance in hanging baskets, window boxes, pots and more. Perennials such as hosta, coral bells (heuchera) and ornamental grass are great foliar additions as long as you either treat them as annuals or move to the garden before the end of the growing season. Trees and shrubs can also be used in containers for the summer, these need to be moved to garden beds as well or treated as an annual. Perennials, shrubs, and trees will not overwinter in containers in our growing climate.

When planting up ornamental containers use the recipe concept of Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers. Thrillers will be the centerpiece or showpiece of the container, fillers – fill the space, and spillers trail out of the edges of the container. Check in with our greenhouse staff for best options for each of these components.

Have fun, be creative and if you need some help, check out our upcoming Summer Porch Pots or Made in the Shade container workshops! Happy Gardening!