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Container Gardening: Always room to grow

Jul 13th, 2010 | Category: Growing

by Jennifer Olson

Got containers? You can get gardening! No matter what kind of space you have – whether it be a small balcony, tiny windowsill, porch, yard or acreage – anyone can do container gardening.
There are a few basic rules to container gardening: sunlight, adequate container size, daily watering and good soil.
You can grow just about any vegetable in a container garden as long as you have enough sunlight. Most vegetables need full sun, which amounts to at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. In smaller areas, such as balconies or decks, you can watch the lighting through the course of the day to see what locations get the most sun. And even if one location does not get six straight hours, you can always move the plant to follow the sun. It is in a container after all!  I do this with a few of my tomatoes on the porch. I pull them into the areas where there is most sunlight and move them as needed. (I have both a large garden space as well as a lot of container gardening areas, and find my tomatoes thrive far better in the containers. They are protected and pulled inside or under the porch when needed, and are potted in black containers, attracting more heat.)
Once you decide where to place your container garden, pick your containers. You’ll need something comparable in size to what you need for what you are growing. For example, I do not recommend using anything smaller than a five gallon container for tomatoes. Many smaller flowers would do fine in a half gallon container, or even smaller.
Whether you are planting vegetables or flowers, your container will need to be full of good soil and adequately watered. Soil quality is very important for vegetables in containers. If you use poor soil, your vegetables simply will not grow. Also, the container should drain properly. (I generally use good potting soil from my local nursery.)
The goal is to keep your soil moist but not wet. If you think your plants need water, stick your finger down about an inch and feel the soil. If the soil feels dry, add water. If the soil feels wet, go back the next day.
I generally water my container plants twice a day – once in the morning and once at night. Make sure you have a pot or container that allows excess water out of the bottom, so your plants won’t sit in water or soggy soil. (Note: If it’s pouring outside, you can always move your plants; something you cannot do with your garden!)
As for fertilizer, you’ll want to add the fertilizer of your choice. I like to use an organic mix and sometimes throw some leftover coffee grinds in with it.
Being summer weather now, it’s not too late to start container gardening. Visit your local market for starts for fall and winter harvesting. If you desire flowers, visit your local nursery and ask for something that blooms into the fall, so you have a good amount of time to enjoy the flower’s colors in the container. (If all else fails, plant some nasturtium starts into the container and you’ll soon have blooms. Very easy to grow, and you will at least get started with container gardening.)
If you looked at my porch, you’d see it covered in a variety of containers. Some of the items I have used are old wooden shelves that I  repainted and “fixed,” as well as old tin watering cans, and plenty of leftover plastic buckets from visiting the nursery. You can use almost anything, as long as it is big enough and has good drainage. I’ve seen shoes, toilet bowls, cups and sinks used in gardens.
Lastly, some of the easiest vegetables to grow in containers are zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots and kale. You still have time to plant!

Jennifer Olson loves growing flowers and vegetables, many in containers. She lives in Whatcom County.

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