Container Gardening

 

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If you live in urban towns and cities or in apartments with a small yard, terrace or balcony you can have a beautiful habitat by growing plants in containers. In fact, this is one of the fastest growing hobbies amongst people who like to be with the nature! You can grow a wide range of sumptuous vegetables, beneficial herbs, lovely flowers and ornamental plants within the constraint of space. As long as the plants receive 6 to 8 hours of sun daily they will do well perhaps even better than if they had been planted in a garden, because containers make it easier to control the soil, light, water and fertilizer. The dividends of container gardening include better protection from harsh weather, weed and pest control.

Grow your own tomatoes, capsicums, chillies, cucumbers, brinjals in large pots or tubs. Choose small containers for the herbs and the medium sized planters for flowers and ornamental plants. Plants that need support or trellises can be grown in the container too; anchor the planting stakes in the pot or place the pot next to a wall with a trellis, netting or lattice attached. In fact, there is no reason why the plants have to always grow up. They can grow down as well and will look lovely trailing into a terrace from hanging baskets!

Containers can also be wonderful objects of aesthetic pleasure if they are arranged, painted and sized in tune with the overall ambience. Allow to spill some plants over the edges, let some plants grow tall while some others can spread a mini-canopy to create your own living habitat! Here are some tips for container gardening:

Bigger is better: The greatest challenge of container vegetable growing is watering, since soil dries out faster in pots, especially earthen pots, than in the ground. A larger volume of soil won't dry out as fast, so choose the biggest pot you can within the space constraint. It's fine to mix compatible plants in a single large pot. Make sure that container has holes so excess water can drain away from the soil.

Begin with herbs: They are easy, especially if you begin with transplants, and will add a fresh-grown taste to almost any meal. Just remember to give them the conditions they prefer. All herbs need full sun, but some, such as rosemary, prefer dryer soil and fewer nutrients; basil needs more fertilizer and watering.

Go-Green: Salad greens, such as lettuce and spinach, are perhaps the simplest vegetables to grow, in the cool weather. Sow seeds right in the pot. They will quickly reach a harvest size of 3 to 4 in. Harvest only the largest leaves and you can keep you’re the plants going for several weeks.

Tomatoes? Yes, they can be grown in containers too! Choose dwarf varieties like cherry tomatoes that are "determinate" meaning they will grow to a certain size, then stop and bear all their fruit in a few weeks. Tomatoes sprawl and the fruits get heavy, so provide trellis for support as the plants grow.

What is the right size? As a rule of thumb you can grow vegetables in large (15 in. diameter) containers, flowers and ornamental plants in medium (9 to 12 in. diameter) and herbs in small (6 to 9 in. diameter). Following table gives an approximate container size requirement for vegetables:

Vegetables                                    Container Size (width x depth)
Beans                                             12 in. x 12 in., 2-4 plants 
Brinjal, Cucumber, Tomato, Okra              15 in. x 15 in. 
Herbs, Lettuce, Salad greens                     6 in. x  6 in. or larger
Chilli, Capsicum                                  12 in. x 12 in.
 
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