Posted on 01 March 2011 by

DIY Containers: How to Pick Them

By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter

Container gardening is the apartment dweller’s savor when it comes to gardening.

It can take many forms from terracotta pots, horse troughs, and even the simple food grade can.

But what are the requirements that a container must have before it can be used as a planter.

First a container must have some form of drainage or a way of creating drainage. Drainage can come in many forms from holes in the bottom of the container to drainage material. But if a hole is or can be drilled through the container figure on one hole per gallon of soil the container will hold.

Next a container must be deep enough to hold the type of plant you plan to use. Shallow-rooted plants such as peppers, lettuce, herbs, and annuals need a container that is at least six to eight inches in diameter and eight inches deep. Larger containers such as bushel baskets or whiskey barrels are perfect for plants such as beans tomatoes, and perennials.

The third requirement is one that every gardener has faced sometime in his or her gardening history. This situation occurs when that beautiful plant falls over when it becomes top heavy in that container you just had to use but knew different. To prevent this situation the height of the container needs to be 1/3 as tall as the tallest plant in the container.

If the container is going to be a monoculture garden the measurement is easy to get just read the plant tag or seed packet of the plant one is using. If the container is going to be planted in a polyculture arrangement take the height of the tallest plants as the gauge for this measurement.

Once the container is chosen make sure to wash the container in warm soapy water and then let dry in the bright sunlight. This solar radiation will dry the container but also help destroy any germs that may cause plant problems.

Add drainage material even if drainage holes exist. Packing peanuts and/or crushed aluminum cans can be used as drainage material along with potshards. If the container is large then leave the aluminum cans whole. They will take up more room and make the container lighter than if it was filled with soil.

To plant simply lay a base of soil on top of the drainage material. Then arrange plant material in container or fill the container with soil and plant seed. Water in as usual and watch your garden grow. Fertilize at least once a week. Check the container often to avoid the effects of the soil drying out.

While creating containers is fun and allows the creative juices to flow there does exist a few tips to this process. If you are growing anything in the containers that you plan to eat do not use pressure treated wood for any container. Do not use any container that had chemicals inside such as paint, cleaning supplies, or fertilizer. Food grade cans, and bottles work great but to aid in creating a drainage hole place water in can or bottle and freeze.

The ice provides resistance so that drilling or poking a hole is easier and the container does not cave in on itself. Also if the container is large plant it where you plan to use it. Large containers planted can weight more than what one may think so consider this fact and plan accordingly. And finally have fun doing this project if the container you create this year does not work keep in mind that there is always a next year full of possible new container ideas.

So until we blog again, Teach a person to think and he ponders the problems of the world, teach a person a skill and he solves the problems of the world, give a person a seed and he feeds the world, and give a person a can and he will repurpose it into a form of transportable land.

One Response to “DIY Containers: How to Pick Them”

  1. meemsnyc Says:

    Those are great tips!

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