Tuesday, May 4, 2010

To Contain or Not To Contain

Anybody that has been following my blog knows, I grow everything in containers. There are a number of reason why. Today, I thought I would give you the pros and cons to this practice. It will let you decide for yourself if this is what you want to do.
Let's start with some of the pros:
No space? No problem. Using containers gives you the flexibility of growing just about anything in a smaller space. If you live in an apartment, containers can be put on the balcony. You can even use a spare bedroom with all the shades open and supplemental lighting. There is some wiggle room as to the statement of, "Grow just about anything in a smaller space". I am pretty sure that a Coconut Palm will not do well in a container, it would have to be one heck of a huge pot! A Sequoia would also be hard pressed in one.
Movin' on up. If you suddenly have to move for whatever reason, they are much easier to put into the back of a truck and you don't have to dig. This is ONE of the main reasons why I container grow everything.....I rent, for the time being.
Harsh Winters? This is another one of the main reasons I containerize so much. Like to try your hand at Pineapples, Guava or some kind of Citrus, but live in Minnesota? You can grow things in the container and move them indoors during the Winter or when frost is coming. During Spring, Summer and Fall, they can come outside. I LOVE the exotic stuff!
Crappy Soil? In containers, you can buy or create the most perfect soil ever. Peat, sand, vermiculite, perlite, small pieces of pine bark, the list is endless as to what you can use to create the perfect soil for whatever you want to grow.
Good for people with disabilities or mobility problems. These are even better than raised beds. They can be placed around in such a fashion that wheelchairs can slide in between two pots and they can both be worked. You can also bring the containers right to the wheelchair.
Containers can be anything that will hold soil. Tires, Buckets, Kiddie Pools, Barrels, your imagination is the only limit here. You will want to make sure that it has drainage holes. I am using an old bathtub for my Asparagus. I have seen people use old tires for potatoes. They can also be as decorative as you like. Imagine the fun you can have with a toilet, sink and bathtub, overflowing with plants in your front yard? Better check with your HOA before doing this however.
Plant not happy? In a container, you can move it to a place it will be happy.
Tired of the scenery? Move things around. You can create an entire new look of your yard in literally minutes.
There is no real back breaking digging. Fill a container with soil and plant. No turf removal. No digging. No rocks. You will probably also have less of a weed problem.
Got Critters? Moles, Nematodes, and many other soil living critters are stopped by having it in a container. You can also have it closer to your house, on the patio for instance, and the Deer or Raccoons will be a little more hesitant to come chow down.

Here is what some of my Peppers, Tomatoes, Potatoes and Citrus growing in containers look like in April:

OKAY, that is the good side of it. Now for the down falls.
The cons:
Watering. Depending on the type of plant, soil medium used and your weather conditions, you are going to have to water much more often. Quite possibly everyday. Cactus will require much less watering, even in the Summer, than Tomatoes. A hot, windy day will dry out your plants faster than an overcast, calm day.
The Heat! If you use a black pot and put it in full sun, which most plants need, the rootzone can easily reach 120 degrees! That will cook those poor little roots. You can shade the pot with a smaller, low growing plant. Clustering the pots together. You can also paint your container with white, plastic paint. A light colored pot will work also.
The Umbrella effect. Let's say you have gotten 2 inches of rain. No need to water, right? You go out and your tomato plants are all droopy. After you stick your finger into the soil, you discover it is dry as a bone! What gives?! The plant acted as an umbrella. All that wonderful rain basically was directed out and away from the soil. You can either live with this, and water more often, or use a much bigger pot than the plant is wide.
Weight. I said up above that you can move the plants in and out, depending on the weather. A fifteen gallon container full of plant and soil is not light. Use non-biodegradable styrofoam packing peanuts or pieces of styrofoam in the bottom to reduce weight. It will also aid in the drainage and keep them out of the local landfill. Be careful not to lighten it up too much, a tall, top heavy plant will blow over easily in a strong wind.
Feed Me. Nitrogen, probably the most important nutrient a plant needs and the first number on a fertilizer package. Unfortunately, it leaches out of containers the fastest. You will need to fertilize more often. I recommend either, every two weeks or using a solution of 1/4 to 1/2 strength every other time you water.
Well, that gives you an idea of the pros and cons of container gardening. I feel that the pros outweigh the cons, but you may feel differently. I wanted to present the case your honor and let you be the judge. After all, it is YOUR yard!
Happy Growing!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I'm pondering my options, but may put many of my future fruit trees in the ground.

    We'll see... I may eat those words.