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A simple guide to container gardening

Everything you need to know about successfully growing a container garden.

Before you start planting your containers this spring, consider these 10 important tips.

1 Start with a plan

Make sure you have all the garden necessities before you start. You’ll need a container, plants, potting soil, fertilizer and a watering can. Choose plants with similar environmental needs, as they’ll be sharing the same home for the next few months.

2 Choose your containers
Not all containers are created equal. Terra-cotta pots tend to dry out faster, while cheap plastic pots can deteriorate in the sun. Lightweight pots made of fibreglass, polystyrene or resin are made to look like stone, concrete or terra-cotta and are a great alternative. If you’re improvising and using a whimsical container such as a tire or birdhouse, drill drainage holes in the bottom so your plants won’t have wet feet.  When choosing the plants, make sure you consider the plants’ mature size. They may look small right now, but by the end of the summer they’ll have filled out nicely.

3 Sterilize your pots

Cleaning your pots is best done in the fall, so you don’t have to do it in the spring when you’d rather be planting. For terra-cotta pots, scrub them with a steel wool and water and vinegar to remove any fertilizer salt (that icky white residue on older terra-cotta pots). For those unique containers that you found at the antique market or garage sale, simply rinse them with water and vinegar and let them dry.

4 The importance of soil
Soil is the key to your container gardening success. Garden soil may seem adequate, but it’s often filled with weed seeds and, once wet, it remains heavy, drowning the roots of your plants. Potting soil is the right soil for the job. It contains peat moss, vermiculite and other ingredients that make it lighter than garden soil.

5 Time to plant
If you’re using terra-cotta or other porous pots, soak them in water before adding soil. Fill the container three-quarters of the way with soil. Add fertilizer and work into the soil. Loosen up the roots and place the plant in the container. Add soil to fill in the holes as you go. Depending on your intended design, graduate foliage texture, height and flower colour. Leave a few centimetres between the edge of the pot and soil surface to allow for watering.
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