Southwest Georgia Master Gardener guest columnist Linda Harris displays an assortment of potted plants at her Albany home.
SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
ALBANY, Ga. — Having a container garden is unbelievably awesome; many people who live in an apartment, condominium or mobile home do not grow a vegetable garden because space is not available for a garden plot. Lack of yard space is no excuse for not gardening, since many kinds of vegetables can be readily grown in containers.
In addition to providing five hours or more of full sun, attention must be given to choosing the proper container, using a good soil mix, planting and spacing requirements, fertilizing, watering and variety selection.
Containers are available in many different sizes, shapes, and materials. All containers — whether clay, wood, plastic or ceramic — should have an adequate number of holes in the bottom for proper drainage. Additional holes should be drilled or punched in containers that do not drain quickly after each watering. Drainage is reduced when the container is set on a solid surface such as a cement or patio floor. Raising the container one or two inches off the floor by setting it on blocks of wood will solve this drainage problem.
The size of the container will be determined by the vegetable grown. Generally, most vegetables grown in the soil can be grown in containers as long as ample space is provided for root development. Shallow rooted crops like lettuce, peppers, radishes, and herbs need a container at least 6 inches in diameter with an 8-inch soil depth. Bushel baskets, half barrels, wooden tubs, or large pressed paper containers are ideal for growing tomatoes, squash, pole beans and cucumbers.
The ideal planting medium for containers should provide rapid drainage with sufficient water retention to keep the root zone uniformly moist. Most container gardeners have found that a “soilless” potting mix works best. In addition to draining quickly, “soilless” mixes are lightweight and free from soil-borne diseases and weed seeds. These mixes can be purchased from garden centers in various sizes under many different brand names.
The do-it-yourself individual can make a planting medium by mixing equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil and peat moss. The mix should be heated in an oven for one hour at 210 degree Farhrenheit to kill any bacteria, fungi, insects or weed seeds.
Planting and spacing requirements for most vegetables can be found on the seed packet or plant tag. A container can sustain only a certain number of plants, therefore it is important to limit the number of plants based on the container size and the eventual size of the plant at maturity. Always plant more seed than needed in each container because there is seldom 100 percent germination and emergence. After the seeds have sprouted and foliage of seedlings is touching, thin plants to the desired number.
Watering is one of the most important jobs a container gardener will perform. Some vegetables need watering every day, depending on container size and weather conditions. The best way to water is with a watering can or sprayer attachment on a garden hose. Be sure the water is cool before applying it to the vegetables, particularly if the hose sits in the sun. Hot water does not stimulate root development.
One advantage of having plants in containers is when you plant them inside so you can create whatever design you want. Another advantage is you have some control of the pests that sometimes destroy entire rows of vegetables. Having a container garden shows the creativity of a person and sometimes tells you about a person. Some show quiet, calm personalities while others show wild, exciting, loving personalities.
One of the main reasons I love my container plants and garden is because if I choose to move or relocate, I can always take my plants and containers with me. Also, my plants are a part of me and I am in a beautiful spiritual mood daily, so therefore I may move my plants to which best accents that define love within my container garden. You must also pick the right plants and determine if you should have things like shade or sun or even both. You want a plant that will display all seasons.
If you have questions about gardening, call your County Extension Agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1 or talk to a Master Gardener Extension volunteer. You can also go to UGAextension.com/Dougherty or GeorgiaMasterGardener.org and click on Southwest GA. The Master Gardener site for Southwest Georgia is SWGAMasterGardener.com/contact.
Linda Harris, of Albany, is a Master Gardener.