The time to plan your container gardens is now

Photo credit: SunHerald

Time arrives to plan 2015 container gardens


One of the easiest gardening activities to plan for 2015 is setting up combination containers. The most important aspect of growing in containers is using the correct “soil,” which is not soil at all. In fact, there is no soil in the correct growing media. If the bag says “garden soil,” that really means it is good for in-ground plants. Growing plants in containers requires a totally different kind of mix.

For the best growth and flowering performance in containers, use a soilless, peat-based mix. Bagged mixes for container plants are often called potting or container mixes and contain no soil. They are found under a variety of trade names but are similar in their basic recipes. They are composed of organic components like peat moss, coir fiber or bark. Potting mixes for containers need to be light and airy and drain well. This is why container mixes also contain vermiculite and perlite, inorganic components that are produced by heating mica or pumice.

These container mixes are readily available at local garden centers and come in a variety of bag sizes — from quarts all the way up to multiple cubic feet. The selection of materials and bags can be confusing, so pay attention to the information printed on the bag.

Read the full article: SunHerald

Cheap tricks for seed starting (Dave’s Garden / S. Talbert)

Read at : Dave’s Garden Weekly Newsletter – April 14, 2008

The Thrifty Gardener: Cheap tricks for seed starting

By Susanne Talbert (art_n_garden)
April 11, 2008

Seed starting itself is a ‘cheap trick’ gardeners know and love. Why pay for full price for a plant when you can start it from seed? Trading, rather than buying seeds, makes seed collecting and starting even cheaper. Once you’ve got the seeds, try these money saving tricks to make your next garden your most thrifty yet.

Seed Starting Mix

No, I’m not the first one to discover a new fangled, fantastic, cheap seed starting medium, unfortunately. I just want to start by pointing out that seed starting mix is one place you shouldn’t skimp or cut corners.  Seed starting mix should be light weight and sterilized to allow delicate seedlings to grow.  Whatever you do, don’t start seeds in cheap potting soil!  Boy, did I learn that the hard way.  After years of problems with germination and damping off due to the wrong medium, I discovered that I have very successful results with peat pellets every time.  Of course these are not the only way to successfully start seeds, but my success rate is so high with peat pellets that in the end I feel I save more money and trouble.  Peat pellets can be purchased locally or online for about 25 for $3.  Continue reading Cheap tricks for seed starting (Dave’s Garden / S. Talbert)

How to Start With Container Gardening (Google Alert / YGOY)

Read at :

Google Alert – gardening

Learn How to Start With Container Gardening

Are you living in an apartment or a small area? Do you want to have a mobile garden that moves with you when you move out from the apartment? Then, container gardening is the best choice you can go for. Gardening your plants in containers offers you the flexibility to create your own mobile garden. How best you can do container gardening depends on how creative you are. Container gardening is the perfect idea for apartments and small areas. That’s why it is also popular as ‘apartment gardening’. In fact you can do container gardening along with your routine gardening on garden beds. Container gardening adds a lot of variety to your gardening routine. Here we give you some ideas and tips on creating and maintaining your own best container garden. Continue reading How to Start With Container Gardening (Google Alert / YGOY)

Planting mix for containers (Google Alert / The Union)

Read at :

Google Alert – gardening

The Union – Nevada County Local News

Container gardening: Soil is king

By Carolyn Singer
» More from Carolyn Singer
12:01 a.m. PT Aug 18, 2007

Early in the summer, the deer discovered the choice selection of plants on my porch. Gone was the beautiful white Impatiens in a blue container. In the same meal, my cherished red Begonia and scarlet pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) also disappeared. I should know better. This is not the first summer the deer have enjoyed my container gardening efforts in what I thought was my “safety zone.” But gardeners are ever optimistic, and I am no exception. Fortunately, this year I also decided to use hanging baskets for a few plants. So far, the deer have decided it is not worth it to climb onto the porch (three steps), climb up on my wicker chairs and stretch to reach those choice morsels hanging over the porch railing. Continue reading Planting mix for containers (Google Alert / The Union)

Tree seedlings in a plastic bottle (Betula alba)

Since some months, I am experimenting growth of tree seedlings in transparent plastic (PET) bottles.  It’s a real success for a number of reasons:

(1) The potting mix, to which I have added a very small amount of water stocking soil conditioner TerraCottem (5 g per liter of soil), is kept continuously moistened (less evaporation, less heating effect than in the classical black plastic grow bags, used in nurseries)

(2) Individual watering of the bottles has a beneficial effect on plant growth.

(3) I can keep my seedlings in daily sight by having the bottles on the terrace.

(4) When the young trees are tall enough for plantation on site, I will dig a plant hole, cut the bottle vertically in two halves, tear the two halves apart and leave them on the bottom of the plant hole when filling the pit with local soil (to which I will add again some TerraCottem).

(5) This way I will take care of the environment by reusing the plastic bottles and finally burying them.

Here are a couple of photos of a young birch tree (Betula alba) growing in a plastic bottle :

Young birch tree in bottle   Birch tree and succulent in bottle

Young birch tree (Betula alba) and a succulent plant growing together in a plastic bottle. (Click on the photos to enlarge them).

Bottle gardening: experiment with Green Ambrosia (Y.PATEL / Willem)

Some weeks ago I received a fertilizer from India, sent by Mr. Yogesh. I promised him to set up some experiments with his “Green Ambrosia“.

Here are the first pictures of the experiment set-up :

Different bottle sizes

Starting the experiment with 3 different bottle sizes. Each bottle cut in 2 parts : 1/3 bottom (serving as a water reservoir), 2/3 top inverted in the bottom part. I leave the lid (stop) on the bottle and make two small openings in the lower part of the come (bottleneck), just above the lid through which water from the bottom tank can be absorbed. (Click on the photo to enlarge it).

3 different bottles with Brussels sprouts

The bottle is filled with a potting mix and a seedling of Brussels sprouts (a cabbage variety) is planted in it.

I am carrying out the experiment with 4 bottles of each size (12 bottles in total) and split up in 2 series :

(1) One series is kept as control (without any special treatment, just leaving the plants growing in the bottles)

(2) One series is treated with the fertilizer Green Ambrosia.

I will publish a report on this after ending the experiment.

How to make easy and beautiful container gardens ? (In the Garden Online)

 I discovered today this wonderful website and an excellent article on container gardening !

Read at :

In the Garden Online

Creating Easy, Beautiful Container Gardens

Somehow, a porch or patio just doesn’t seem complete without some potted plants. And why not? Container gardens can highlight these areas of your home, as well as allow you to grow a variety of plants in a small area. You can play with color combinations, try out plants that you’re considering for your permanent landscape, or just pick what looks pretty and enjoy it. While you can buy pre-planted containers at almost every garden center, it is satisfying (and fun!) to select plants and put them together into a container garden all by yourself. Think it’s too complicated, that you don’t have the “eye” for it? No way! I’ll show you how to create beautiful container gardens, and I’ll point you to some of my favorite resources on container gardening. Continue reading How to make easy and beautiful container gardens ? (In the Garden Online)

Raised beds combined with containers for inside gardening (Willem)

Today, I received an interesting comment from Anne WALKER on my former posting :

Different aspects of rooftop gardening (Google Alert / Salt Lake Tribune) July 13, 2007

If a garden can be grown on a roof top, how about on the parking lot of an old abandoned strip mall. It is late in the season to start a garden, but we just received funding. We also have donated space in a building located in a strip mall. There is a fenced in area that I’d like to create a few raised beds and perhaps apply lasagne gardening in the beds. What do we do about drainage? How do we keep the soil and water from running out under the beds. Do we line with plastic? Help!!! This is a late summer youth project, funded in part from Community Block Grant and State arts funds.”

Here is my reply to her :

Dear Anne,

Thanks for contacting me and congratulations for your nice ideas.

Raised bed gardening offers a lot of opportunities to embellish our environment or to grow plants in any “difficult” place.

Let us first consider the outside parking lot (or is it inside ?). I see no problem to install raised beds there. Would a bit of water running out be a problem ? Then, I recommend to make the beds a bit higher (1-2 feet), to line the bottom up with a strong plastic sheet forming a shallow reservoir, to fill the bottom part of that reservoir (2-4 inches) with granules of expanded clay (also used in hydroponics) and to cover these granules with a good potting mix to which I would add some water stocking polymers or, even better, a soil conditioner like TerraCottem (see <;).

About the raised beds inside the building : see above, as I cannot foresee any problems with water.

Let me now make another suggestion !

Why don’t you construct a raised bed and fill it up with containers (each of them perforated at its bottom for drainage). I am thinking at the classical plastic flower pots, but also at PET bottles or even big plastic party cups (use your imagination).

The raised bed should be constructed like the one described above : with plastic lining at the bottom, but without clay granules. The containers (pots, bottles or cups) can be put directly on the plastic sheet (in the so-called reservoir) and filled with a good potting mix (mixed with water stocking soil conditioner), then seeded or planted. Now all the containers are covered (mulched) with a thin layer of potting mix, so that one cannot see the containers anymore (only a nice layer of soil under which the containers are hidden). When watering such a raised bed, most of the water will be running into the containers and stocked in the polymers. A surplus of water, running through the containers or through the open spaces between the containers, will run into the plastic sheet reservoir and only a minimum will be kept for a short time on that plastic sheet (from where it will be gradually absorbed by the potting mix in the perforated containers).

I can imagine that after a while one would have to add a thin supplementary mulching layer of potting soil, for the soil will slide partly down into the open spaces between the individual containers.

I never did this before, but I can imagine that this would be quite successful. Worth trying, I think !

Please keep me informed and possibly send me some photos of your realization. I will gladly publish them on my blog.


A special container form : the grow tower (Willem)

Years ago, I visited a colleague in Beijing (Prof. Dr. WANG Tao), who showed me a peculiar way of growing garlic plants on vertical “poles”. In fact, the poles were PVC pipes, about 10-12 cm (4-5 inches) in diameter, in which a series of 4-5 cm (1 ½ to 2 inches) holes were drilled. The holes were spaced randomly around the pipe, about 4-5 cm (1 ½ to 2 inches) apart.

An impressive series of pipes were standing as “grow towers” in a greenhouse, so that in a relatively small space a maximum of plants were kept growing from floor to ceiling. Each pipe was filled with potting soil and the pipes were watered with a sort of drip irrigation system. In every hole of each grow tower a garlic bulb was growing splendidly (flowering towers !).

This brought me to the idea that a smaller number of plants could also be grown on PET bottles. It suffices to cut a number of holes in the wall of the bottle, filled with potting soil, to create a small grow tower (see my first experimental designs) :

Vertical grow tower

Bottle with 3 holes at one side. The same number can be cut at the opposite side. (Click on the picture to enlarge it).

Bottle grow tower

Mini grow tower : holes cut in the bottle wall fashioned with scotch tape.


I intend to set up some experiments with similar grow towers next week and I will post the results as soon as possible.


Today, I was reading an interesting description of other types of grow tower, made in wood. Here is the text that I found in The Tucson Gardener (2004) :

The Homemade Strawberry Tower
ou would think by now that I’d be out of new strawberry plants but I wasn’t. I still had about 50 young, healthy plants that needed to find a place in the garden or were destined for the compost bin. I happened to read where someone suggested drilling holes in a whiskey barrel filling the barrel with potting soil and the holes with strawberry plants. That’s when I decided I’d build a grow tower from inexpensive wood just to see what would happen.

Using cedar fence boards and lots of screws I made a four foot tall by about 15 – inch square container. Then I drilled a bunch of evenly spaced inch and a half diameter holes.

I then treated the outside of the wood with a water sealer and moved the whole thing to a place in the vegetable garden where I placed it on four concrete stepping stones to keep it from sitting on the ground. I ran a loop of soaker hose down to the bottom of the four foot tower and hooked it up to the watering system.

Then came the hard part – planting the strawberry plants. I filled the container with a good potting mix and some slow release fertilizer putting plants in the holes as I filled the tower. At the top I added a few more plants. Eventually I had to replace three plants that didn’t make it because I may have planted them too deeply covering the crown.

I had plans to make a removable cage that I could slip over the tower with the beginning of fruit production to fend of birds and rodents but production wasn’t so great that I needed to build the cage. I did construct a simple frame to support shade cloth to help the plants make it through the hot summer.

I must admit I like the looks of my tower but it hasn’t been a big strawberry producer. My biggest fear is it may fall apart sooner than I’d like. I’m hoping it will last for three years. The verdict isn’t yet in. Until then the strawberry tower makes and interesting addition to the vegetable garden.(2004)”


Looking at all these possibilities to construct “grow towers” from pipes, bottles, barrels, wood etc., I am wondering if some of you would come up with more interesting ideas. I am looking forward to your descriptions and preferably with photos.

What a wonderful world, this container gardening, in particular for people living in the drylands, who can grow vegetables and fruits without needing to install gardens in desertlike soils, saving a lot of water and getting fresh food with minimal efforts !