Master Gardeners: Tips for successful container gardening | Home And Garden

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series on container gardening.

Containers are great for people with limited mobility, who live in apartments, or who have minimal space in their yard. Bring in herbs and vegetables that can be used.

If you have a sunny window, a protected balcony or patio, you can eat fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. It doesn’t have to be. Flower-filled containers look best with spillers (climbing or ridged plants), fillers (middle layers), and thrillers (usually the tallest, most dramatic plants).

Growing in containers requires special instructions. Here are some tips for growing optimally in containers.


Use a multi-purpose potting mix blended with ingredients such as peat, vermiculite, perlite, sand and bark. There are special mixes such as extra sand for succulents and organic, compost-rich mixes for edibles. Alternatively, fortify a lightweight peat-based mixture with compost and polymer crystals to increase water retention in window boxes, hanging baskets, and other quick-drying containers.

Refresh the soil annually with a fresh potting mix and a dose of slow-release fertilizer.


Place the heavy container where you want it before planting.

If using a terracotta pot, soak it in water first. If your pot has a large drain, cover it with a sieve, newspaper, or coffee filter to keep the soil out. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, it’s a good idea to make one or two holes in the bottom if possible. Then you need to put a tray under the pot so that the water can be seen, to make sure the roots have enough water. sometimes.

It is best to line a coffee filter or hard cloth over the hole to keep the dirt from coming out the bottom. Blend slow-release fertilizer with water-retaining crystals, then top with regular potting mix. Start with the largest or tallest and finish with the smallest. Place the largest plants in the center for a symmetrical design, or to one side for an asymmetrical balance. Arrange the plants until you are satisfied with the arrangement.

Immediately before planting, soak the root ball of each plant in a solution of water and root stimulant formulated for transplanting. Remove the largest plant from the nursery pot, set it in the container, and add potting mix around the root ball. Fill the space between plants by mixing soil without filling.

If you want to sow the seeds, follow the instructions on the bag and sow them directly. Leave 2 inches between the top of the soil mixture and the container for water and mulch. Moisten the entire pot after planting (until the drainage holes in the pot run out of water). Place the plant in the shade for a few days to help it recover from the transplant before putting it in place.


Containers should generally be watered daily during the summer and every 2-3 days during the cooler months unless it rains. Hot, dry weather and small pots may require twice-daily watering. Plants suffer from too much water, just as they suffer from too little water. To determine if your container garden needs water, stick your finger up to the second knuckle of the soil or use a soil moisture meter. When the soil feels dry, it’s time to water. Check the pot daily. Fully saturate the potting mix. Excess water should be drained from the container. Soil acidity, root rot, and root-killing mineral salts build up in poorly drained containers. Once the soilless mixture is completely dry, place the pot in a large container of water overnight to re-moisten it.

Early morning is the best time to water. Allow your plants to absorb what they need before the afternoon heat causes excessive evaporation. Watering in the evening leaves moisture on the leaves, which can promote disease. If you only have a few containers, use a watering can to water them. If you have more than a few containers, use drip irrigation set on a timer. This will save you the trouble of watering. Drip systems also conserve water by delivering water close to the roots of plants to minimize evaporation and runoff.

Especially in hard water areas, check the system seasonally to make sure the timer is working and the lines are not clogged or punctured. Automatic watering pots have a built-in reservoir that delivers moisture to the soil. They need to be watered less frequently. Retaining mats that fit in the bottom of hanging baskets and other containers, allowing moisture to escape into the soil.

• If you have any gardening questions, feel free to call us at 509-574-1604 or email to ask our master gardeners.

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