More people are getting involved in gardening to enjoy its many benefits, such as having plants that provide more oxygen, saving money on fresh produce and even for helping to reduce stress. But you don’t need a big yard with lots of space to have a garden. You can grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs in containers that will fit on a patio or even on an apartment balcony. Special techniques are needed to help container plants thrive. Compost is a soil conditioner that is used for all types of gardening because of it beneficial effects for plant growth.
You Can Grow Almost Anything in A Container Garden
Many different vegetables lend themselves easily to container gardening. Carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, green beans, eggplants, green onion, leaf lettuce, peppers, spinach and tomatoes are just a few types that are as at home in container gardens as they are in plot gardens. You can also grow fruits in containers, such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, as well as dwarf species of lemon, apple and nectarines.
Of course, each type of fruit or vegetable may have unique growing needs. Some may need staking, and others may be susceptible to certain plant diseases or pests. It’s always a good idea to research the plants you intend to grow to have a good understanding of their needs.
Special Problems of Container Gardening
Container gardening involves a number of special problems that cause poor growth, wilting, burning of foliage or yellowing. You should ensure that the container you use has holes in the bottom to allow excess moisture to drain out. Make sure the container is in a location that gets sunlight for a good portion of the day. Salts can build up in soil held in containers. You can eliminate excessive salt in soil by periodically running water through the containers until in runs out of the bottom. Ensure your container plants have sufficient nutrients for healthy growth. Avoid overwatering, which can cause root rot.
What Is Compost and Why You Should Use It
Compost is a soil-like compound that is the end result of decomposition of organic matter. It may look like soil, but it is so much more. Compost has a crumbly texture that makes it perfect for aerating the natural soil in gardens. Garden soil varies from region to region. In some areas, it may contain amounts of clay that makes it clump together easily. In other areas, in may contain sand that makes it hold together poorly.
Compost is a material that helps to make whatever soil you have into a better medium for growing plants. For container gardening, compost can be particularly helpful. It helps stabilize loose soil to provide support for growing plants. It also breaks up tightly packed soil to allow oxygen and water to flow freely through it. Compost also contains microbes and other types of soil life that feed on the organic matter and add nutrients for plants to utilize. This is why compost is always recommended and used by expert gardeners who strive for the healthiest plants with maximum yields.
Compost Enriches Soil
Experienced gardeners understand the importance of well-conditioned soil. Loose healthy soil allows the plant’s root system to grow and expand, facilitating the uptake of moisture and nutrients. Soil that is compacted and hard makes it harder for plants to take up these components through the root system. Compost helps to loosen soil, allowing oxygen and water to flow freely and providing a beneficial environment for root growth. Compost provides beneficial compounds and soil conditioners, which can be particularly important for container gardening, in which the soil can become cramped and leached of essential nutrients.
Mushroom Compost for Container Gardening
A particularly nutrient rich type of compost is mushroom compost. When using mushroom compost for container gardening, care must be used. Typically you will want to mix it with topsoil, and be especially careful if using it with seeds or seedlings.
As the name implies, commercial mushrooms are grown in mushroom compost. After harvest, the compost is no longer suitable for growing mushrooms. Therefore, it is sold as mushroom compost, primarily through landscape supply centers. Each brand and type of mushroom compost is unique, so we don’t want to provide specific guidelines here. If you choose to include mushroom compost in your container gardens, use care, read the instructions, and ask the professionals at your garden center for assistance.
Adding Compost When Planting
The best way to give your plantings a good start is to add in the compost when you first place the plants in the container. You first start with soil, which may be store-bought potting soil or a potting mixture you make yourself with Perlite, peat moss and vermiculite. Place the amount needed for the container plant into a large bucket.
Then, add the compost. The mixture should be from 25 percent to 50 percent compost. Mix thoroughly. Then, fill up the bottom of the container. Position the plant, and fill in the sides with the soil/compost mixture. Tamp down firmly, but do not pack into a hard ball. You can gently tap the bottom of the container on the concrete or other surface to settle the mixture. Add a bit more, as needed to get to the right surface level.
Adding More Compost As Plant Grows
Over time, the soil in containers can become compacted and drained of nutrients. To keep soil well aerated and to provide additional elements for growth, add a layer of compost to the top of the soil in the container.
Don’t mix the compost into the soil, which might disturb the root system and can cause plant failure. Simply add the compost loosely to the surface of the soil around the base of the plant. The layer of compost will gradually decompose into the rest of the potting mixture, nourishing the root system and loosening the soil.
Making Your Own Compost For Container Gardening
You can buy compost in bags at your local garden or home improvement center. You can also make your own compost, without having to utilize a yard area for the project. A small plastic or metal bin with a cover will do to make enough compost for your container plants. The basic elements of compost are brown matter, green matter, oxygen and water. Soil bacteria, microbes and fungus do the breakdown of materials to make the crumbly, nutrient-rich compost.
The “brown” matter used to make compost includes items such as twigs, branches, dried leaves, straw and paper. The “green” portion is composed of leaves, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds and grass clippings. The ration should be 3 to 4 parts brown to one part green. The mixture should be consistently moist, but not soggy. Do not anything greasy to your compost bin, such as meat scraps or drippings. Your compost should not smell bad. If it does, add more brown matter and turn it more frequently to let it dry out a bit.
Compost Tea for Plants
Compost tea is another way you can deliver important nutrients to plants that are easily absorbed by the roots. You can make a nutritious compost tea for your container plants by putting a small amount of compost into a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cloth into a bag shape. Place into a bucket of water. The ratio should be about one part compost to 5 parts water. Allow the compost to steep for several hours. Remove the bag of compost and use the tea to water your plants.