And on the Eighth Day God Created the Pot

There’s hope for folks living in apartments, school dormitories or homes that have limited space for gardening.  In addition to just being downright fun, container gardening isn’t as complicated as you may have heard and offers some serious advantages over traditional gardening methods.

Although it spans a long and storied history, many people remain strangely cautious or perhaps even intimidated when it comes to container gardening.  This not-so-new method of gardening almost certainly predates the birth of Christ and possibly reaches farther back than the reign of Nebudchnezzer II.  In fact, if the fantastic descriptions of the hanging gardens in ancient Babylonian are remotely true, one could easily conclude that container gardening was old hat by six hundred BC.

The first rule of container gardening is that bigger is better.  The first and most important part of container gardening is to get the growing medium right.  The more soilless medium a container can hold, the more capacity it has to support healthy plants.  Only in few rare cases is this rule not universally true.  Big containers mean more room for roots.  Large volumes of growing medium also take longer to dry out than small containers, which translates into less time watering and more time enjoying plants.

The second rule of container gardening is to only water when the growing medium tells you to.  One big mistake many folks make is to add water when they don’t know what else to do.  Roots need both air and water.  As it turns out, they really need roughly equal amounts of both.  Whenever water saturates the medium, oxygen is forced out.  It only takes a moment to push your finger down into the medium a couple inches.  In most cases, if you can detect even a little moisture then you may want to wait at least another twenty-four hours and check again.  Once it feels pretty dry to the touch, flood the medium with high quality water.  Do not use distilled water or water from your reverse osmosis dispenser.

When you do irrigate, it’s always best to flood the medium until water flows steadily out of the container’s drain holes.  This helps wash any built up salts away from the roots.  Of course, for indoor containers that are too heavy or bulky to move easily, you’ll want to be sure a dish is under the pot.  If like me, your need to be doing something for your plants threatens to overcome your good sense, then try thinking about it another way; when you’re not adding water, you’re adding oxygen.

The third rule of container gardening is never use “dirt” from the yard.  Soilless medium is engineered to be airy, making it lightweight and able to hold both moisture and oxygen like a sponge.  These engineered mixes are sterilized to avoid introducing any pathogens to the plants they support.  When you collect dirt, garden soil, or garbage that resembles soil from your lawn, it will contain bacteria, fungi and viruses that may eventually lead to plant diseases.  Also, lawn soil is heavy, especially when wetted.  Soil from the lawn will become densely packed easily and restrict root development while also suffocating them.  This is true without exception.

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