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Container Gardening 101

Thursday, June 25th, 2020 by Art Ditzel


Container Gardening 101 - Image 1

As space and property become less and less available, gardeners have had to become creative. As lot sizes dwindle and town homes and condos gain popularity, there is just less available space to plant these days. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median size of lot for new construction in 2019 was 8,982 square feet, or about one-fifth of an acre. By comparison, the median size of a home lot in 2009 was 10,994 square feet, or one-fourth of an acre. That’s a square footage drop of 18.3 percent in average size.

What is a plant lover to do?

Container gardening has gained popularity over the last several years. The invention and distribution of light weight, durable and colorful pots have thrust both ornamental plants as well as herbs and vegetables onto the Pinterest map. No longer do you need large plots of land to garden. 

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Here is a simple starters list to designing and building a beautiful container.

Pot (container)

Potting Soil


Slow release fertilizer or liquid fertilizer

A watering can or hose

That's all, its that simple.


Design Basics

There are a few design principles to consider when planting container gardens. They concern dimension, shape, and color.

To reduce the flat look, a tall plant, or a garden ornament for height and a trailing plant to drape down from the container. Chose plants that are in scale with the size of your container and planting backdrop. As a guideline, plants should be twice as tall as the visible part of the container. If planting one large plant such as an ornamental grass, select a larger container that will fulfill both plant growth and design needs. Large plants can overwhelm small situations and small plants make little impact in large spaces. A grouping of different sized containers will also help achieve this goal. Also consider whether the container will be viewed from one side or several angles and position plants accordingly.

Consider the texture or shapes of plant leaves and flowers. A variety of leaf shapes and sizes can be more appealing than uniform foliage. Combine round-shaped flowers with irregularly shaped ones.



Container gardens require more frequent watering than “in-ground” landscapes because the exposed sides of the containers result in more evaporation. Plastic containers do not dry out as quickly as ceramic, especially unglazed ceramic pots. Even plastic containers may require daily or twice daily watering as plants grow larger. Do not allow containers to dry completely or fine roots will die. Also, if allowed to dry excessively, the potting media will shrink away from the side of the container and be harder to re-wet.

There are water holding polymers or gels that are available for purchase or are included in some potting soils. These polymers do hold water as promised, but research has shown that the amount of water available to the plant is not enough to prolong periods between watering here in Colorado. Adding too much of the polymer can cause the soil to retain too much water and soil may spill from the pot.. There are also new self-watering pot systems that may potentially reduce watering maintenance.

Most municipal water systems on the Front Range are from mountain sources which are excellent and cause few problems. However, water from wells and much of the Western Slope is often high in salts or carbonates which can cause some problems. One way to prevent excessive salt buildup is to water completely where 10 percent of what is added drains out the bottom. This will help reduce the salt build-up that is damaging to plants, causing burned leaf edges, stunted growth, and fewer blooms. If saucers are used to catch drained water, empty them to prevent salt buildup. This can be done easily with a kitchen baster; however, dedicate one to the garden and don’t reuse it in the kitchen.

Water is often used to carry soluble fertilizers to the roots of container plants. Fertilizers are forms of salts, so salt management is important because of the need to fertilize container plants regularly.


Container Gardening 101 - Image 3


The rapid growth of many container plants quickly depletes the fertilizer available in the limited volume of soil. Well-drained soil mixes also result in the regular loss of fertilizer in the drainage water.

To provide the right amount of fertilizer, mix controlled-release fertilizer granules into the soil mix at planting. The large number of plants often grown in containers places extra demands on the fertilizer supplied by timed-release products. Under Colorado conditions, the fertilizer supplied by these products is generally insufficient to carry container plants through the growing season. Therefore it is necessary to use fully soluble fertilizer products added to the irrigation water to supplement or replace timed-release products. Organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion or blood meal can also be used if desired, but may be available too slowly for actively growing plants, or may develop sour aromas that attract pets and pests.

Dilute soluble fertilizers may be used with every watering, or at full strength on a weekly or every two-week basis, depending on the type of plants being grown. Follow product directions for concentrations and timing.

Container gardening is fun and easy, be creative and enjoy your time as you do it.


You can contact the professions at SBC Outdoor Service to help with this or any landscape project at your home or residence. We C.A.R.E.







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