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GARDENING: Container plants explained

Theres 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 isnt 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 Nebuchadnezzar II.

In fact, if the eccentric descriptions of the Babylonian Hanging Gardens are remotely true, one could easily conclude that container gardening was old hat by 600 BC. The most important part of container gardening is to get the growing medium right.

The first rule of container gardening is bigger is better. The more soilless medium a container can hold, the more likely it is to support a healthy plant. Except in a few rare cases, this rule is universally true. Big containers mean more room for roots to grow. 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 only water when the growing medium tells you to. One big mistake many newbies make is to add water when they dont know what else to do. Plant 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 second to press your finger down into the medium a couple inches and feel for moisture. In most cases, if you can detect even a little moisture then wait at least another twenty-four hours and check the soil again. Once it feels pretty dry to the touch, flood the medium with high quality water.

When you do irrigate, its always best to flood the medium until water flows steadily out of the containers drain holes. This helps wash any salts away from the roots. Of course, for indoor containers that are too heavy or bulky to move easily, youll want to be sure a dish is under the pot. If, like me, your craving to be doing something for your plant threatens to overcome your good sense, then try looking at it another way; when youre not adding water, youre 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 surround. Dirt, garden soil, or garbage that resembles soil shoveled out of your lawn will contain bacteria, fungi and viruses that will eventually lead to diseases in your container plants. Also, lawn soil is heavy, especially when wetted. Soil from the lawn will compact easily and restrict root development while suffocating them. This is true without exception.

Stay tuned because next week well explore the top five foolproof indoor container plants. Anyone can grow these. Theyll look so good that visitors to your home will literally be forced to touch them just to see if theyre real.