If planned right a container garden can be quite simple and easy to maintain. Many stores now carry whats called self watering containers. Making it easier for the forgetful gardener less forgetful. But the true benefit from this type of container isn’t the water reservoir but the way the plants get their water. Traditional containers are watered from the top down. They have drainage holes at the bottom so that water is not sitting. Although important you actually loose a lot of nutrients this way. Every time you water from the top when the water begins to leak out the bottom it takes some soil with it. When you water from the bottom you don’t loose anything, plus there is no over watering. The roots get water when they need them.
A key to a good container garden is not only the container it’s self but the soil and the seed. A good potting mix will usually be just fine. But starting the seeds in that mix doesn’t alway work out right. In all honesty it is best to start even container bound plants in a seed starter kit. With the use of peat pellets that have the mesh around them enables the seeds to get a good root bed before hand. These peat pellets allow air and water to flow through easily, giving the roots what they need. Once they are established and roots seem to be making their way out of the mesh planting them mesh pellet and all into the container is better. You can start seeds directly but I have found they have a better chance of living if started then place in the container.
In this picture you can see the parsley is growing quite well. If you look closely you can see the mesh around the base of the main plants. Then at the bottom of the pot you can see a few seedlings. As an experiment I tried planting some seeds directly. Although they did indeed grow they didn’t get to the size of the main plants.
Although hard to see in the second picture the main plants are still growing. But the seedlings now 2 months older are very leggy. They are getting their true leaves but not as soon as the main plant did and not as sturdy. In the mesh they were allowed to build a strong root system first then a strong main stem. Where when directly sown in potting mix although they grew and still are one leggy stem per seedling.
Another part of container gardening is combining different plants.
In this pot from left to right I have Italian Parsley, Oregano, and Cilantro. The tall parsley and oregano plants were both started in seed trays. the Cilantro was started in this window box. Again I noticed the leggy attributes of the cilantro much like the above picture of the parsley. These 2 pictures were taken over a month ago and since then both have gotten less leggy and stronger. So planting directly is fine it just may take longer for them to be strong. This pot is also a self watering container. You can’t see it in the picture but on each of the 4 corners at the base is an opening in which to add the water. It is one big reservoir but water can be added from any of the 4 corners. In the above picture you can see how around the base of the parsley the soil seems darker than just beyond….that is due to the self watering. Only the soil where the roots are gets the water…as it is the only part asking for it. Herbs require more water than many house plants. Many who grow house plants can safely water once a week…but in the same type of container that has drainage holes herbs would need water at least twice a week. But with these self watering containers I can easily go a week sometimes almost 2 before I need to water. I don’t go by the dirt as it almost always looks dry but I go by the reservoir. If it is dry I add water. If there is still water in it or it is still damp I can chose to wait a day or add more.
My kids can also safely water the plants. The leaves don’t get wet and they instantly know when they have added too much water…as it spills out the fill holes. Pick one up today and add some color to your house. Plant some indoor flowers or some herbs.