opabinia51
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Essence of Container Gardening

Container gardening is similar to regular gardening in that with good soil, you get good plants.

Here is the mix that I use:

1 part compost
1 part mushroom manure
1 part soil

I have found that plants seem to go nuts in this mix and do really well.

The really big difference between container gardening and .... gardening gardening is that most likely you will have to water more often. There is not such thing as a "deep watering" with container plants because usually at most, there is about a foot of soil at most.

So, you have to watch your plants and the soil and water accordingly.

Contrary to common belief, for indoor plants: window sills are not a good thing because the differences in temperature between day and night can easily kill a plant. Also, on hot summer days, the light rays are focussed and can burn a plant to death.

The only time that I ever used sterilized soils, is when I grow indoor plants and even then, I try not to go with sterilized soil because a good flora and fauna in the soil make for happy, healthy plants.

WATERING:

What's the best way to water a potted plant or potted plants?

Good question, I'm glad you asked. Well it's best to top water a plant until water comes from the bottom of the pot and fills the water catching container.

Now, you don't want to water every day or you will drown the plant and encourage various diseases. So, test the soil first. You want to keep it most but, not wet.

For smaller potted plants, immersion in a sink of water for 1/2 hour to an hour will give it a good soaking.


FERTILIZER:

One word: ORGANIC

If you don't want to hertize each week then when you pot the plant, sprinkle some kelp meal in with the soil mix (and I add another bit on top once the plant is potted). Kelp meal is a slow release, organic fertilzer

Liquid fish fertilzer; not the best fertilizer for indoors but, it works well. My potted tomatoes love it. Apply weekly and dilute per the instructions on the bottle.

Liquid Seaweed Fertilizer: Good for indoors because it doesn't smell. Great for Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium and not to mention all sorts of micronutrients.

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Opa, just a point of clarification on watering:
Not all plants like to be watered from the top. A few of these include:
- Gardenias
- Primulas
- Most of the "Gesneriaceae" family, to name just a few of the hundreds of species in the family:
- "streptocarpus" - Cape primrose
- "chirita"
- "saintpaulia" - African Violet
- "sinningia"
- "episcia" - Flame Violet
These plants do not like to be watered from the top as the wet soil rots their leaves off, and often the core of the plant.
There are many more, but these are common ones, and I am sure others have discovered other plants that prefer this method of watering. :wink:

Val
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opabinia51
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Great information to have Val, thanks for the addition!

grandpasrose
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No worries Opa! :wink:

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grandpasrose wrote:Opa, just a point of clarification on watering:
Not all plants like to be watered from the top. A few of these include:
- Gardenias
- Primulas
- Most of the "Gesneriaceae" family, to name just a few of the hundreds of species in the family:
- "streptocarpus" - Cape primrose
- "chirita"
- "saintpaulia" - African Violet
- "sinningia"
- "episcia" - Flame Violet
These plants do not like to be watered from the top as the wet soil rots their leaves off, and often the core of the plant.
There are many more, but these are common ones, and I am sure others have discovered other plants that prefer this method of watering. :wink:

Val
This may seem like it would have an obvious answer, but how do you water a plant if you don't water it from the top? :oops:

opabinia51
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There are a couple of ways:

1)
If the container is small: fill your sink with water (so that it is deeep enough to immerse the entire pot). And place the entire pot in the sink for about an hour.

2) If the pot is really large, fill the water catching tray beneath the pot with water and allow the plant to "drink" the water.

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opabinia51 wrote:There are a couple of ways:

1)
If the container is small: fill your sink with water (so that it is deeep enough to immerse the entire pot). And place the entire pot in the sink for about an hour.

2) If the pot is really large, fill the water catching tray beneath the pot with water and allow the plant to "drink" the water.
Which then beggers the question how do they do it in the wild (I'm thinking water table) but I am curious.

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I've just started a tomato plant and a few herbs in pots, and was wondering about the soil. I read you here saying to mix the soil with compost and mushroom manure. First off, don't laugh, but I'm wondering, do mushrooms have manure? I'm guessing that mushrooms are mixed into it, and if I go ask the seed guy for 'mushroom manure' he will know what I mean?

Also, the soil we bought from the seed store says that it has slow-release fertilizer in it that lasts for 6 months. It said not to add anything to it. Is this ok to plant alone, or should I have added some compost and things anyhow? (Someone told my mother that if she put extra in there it would be too much for the plants and hurt them.)

And IF your answer is that I should have added the compost and things as well, then is it better to dig the tomato plant up and repot it with some, or better to just add a bit to the top, or how's the best and safest way to do that? I potted it 2 days ago.

Thanks! You guys are great! I love this forum.

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I guess "mushroom manure" is the manure used for growing mushroom. We usually call it mushroom compost . I use 70% mushroom compost and 30% top soil.

To grow tomato in pot, first of all, you need to choose the type of tomato suitable for containers. Regular tomato does not grow well in containters unless you use a gigantic container.

Secondly, tomato is hungary for water. On a sunny day, you may need to water it twice a day if you use a traditional container with a drain hole at the bottom. Try to use the one with water reservoir.

To add slow release fertilizer, blend it into the soil in 3" deep arround the edge of the container.

I have 50% vegetables plantted in containers. Here are some video clips of my garden:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=N5LPJ3Oa2jY

https://youtube.com/watch?v=74-nGiDCWKI


A few pictures as well --

Tumbler tomato is good for containers. I added illustration for how to modify the conatiner to get a water reservior:
[img]https://www.themomentstudio.com/gallery/image/mygarden/pot1.jpg[/img]

[img]https://www.themomentstudio.com/gallery/image/mygarden/pot2.jpg[/img]

[img]https://www.themomentstudio.com/gallery/image/mygarden/pot3.jpg[/img]

[img]https://www.themomentstudio.com/gallery/image/mygarden/pot4.jpg[/img]

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Is Mushroom Manure/Compost a common item at a nursery or home depot kinda place?
Also, if I buy organic potting soil, that is better then miracle gro correct?

thanks!
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Mushroom compost is the product of the broken down straw that they grow mushrooms in. It is pretty much guaranteed to be weed seed free.This is mainly due to the steam sterilization that is done to the straw before the mushroom spores are inoculated into it. It is pretty good for rebuilding damaged soil.

I use mushroom compost to rebuild soil along with a lucerne mulch and horse manure.

chio88
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Thanks for all the good information! :D

Olivia-G
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Where can you get mushroom compost from?

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applestar
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I guess best answer is "better independent garden centers" :wink:
The three I usually frequent all have them. They all run landscaping businesses as well if that helps.

If your location is "Reading" as in PA, you shouldn't have any trouble finding mushroom compost.... :?:

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opabinia51 wrote:There are a couple of ways:

1)
If the container is small: fill your sink with water (so that it is deeep enough to immerse the entire pot). And place the entire pot in the sink for about an hour.

2) If the pot is really large, fill the water catching tray beneath the pot with water and allow the plant to "drink" the water.

First of all, thank you for all the good information.

I always wonder how long do I need to keep the pot in the sink. Does the plant need an hour to drink all the water it needs? It just seems a bit long to me...

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Sandy,

I prefer to water from above if possible. I know that sometimes that is difficult for indoor growers. Watering by submersion has some benefits and some drawbacks. If you choose to water this way I too feel that an hour is unnecessarily long. 15-20 minutes would surely allow the soil to be saturated, which is all you are really trying to accomplish anyway. Wait for any bubbles to stop and observe the soil, if it is wet that should be sufficient.

Norm

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Thanks Norm for your advice! :)
Sandy

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I can now find mushroom compost at the big box stores, Lowes and Home Depot. There is just nothing like it and it goes into all of my container soil mixes, as well as into my yard garden, as well.

In watering containers (and maybe this was mentioned before and I missed it) I have found a great difference in watering needs based upon the materials the containers are made from. I have found ceramic containers to need more frequent watering than their plastic cousins. Please take this into consideration.
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the reason it can take an hour is that once it dries, peat is hydrophobic.
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Thanks for the information and thread starter!
Hi There!

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Can you put straw in place of the mushroom manure? I know you won't get the nutrients the mushroom manure provides, but will the straw be beneficial in any way?

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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

For indoor gardening, the above watering method could spell trouble.

To my understanding: If you water from the top just until water start to seep out into the tray, you will slowly build up salts in the soil, which could prevent the plant from drawing water out of the soil. If your climate is dry and hot and/or you fertilize frequently, this risk is increased.

I place my plants in the shower and water them well beyond the point where water starts to drain out from the bottom. This way any excess salts are washed out of the soil

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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

:D don't worry,buy pot,min 10 inch
buy compost manure,bone dust,neem dust and 3 kg good quality soil,break soil particles with hands,mix all 3 ingredients,and fill the pot half,then put the sapling into pot in middle ,then fill the pot emptying 1 inch from border,water the pot thoroughly.u can give one day gap if soil is soggy.

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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Has anyone experimented with filling large containers 1/2 full with straw, the putting potting mix on top of that?

While I'm not new to gardening, I am new to container gardening. (Well, not new, just not very good at it...) I have been lurking around this container forum, and I've read all the sticky threads.

The really LARGE pots take quite a bit of mix! I've seen some plant right in bales of straw. I'm just wondering if you pack it in there pretty good, water it well, then fill to the top with potting mix, if it would work out? Anyone tried this?
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

For very big pots, loose pieces of hay would probably not work. (Beacuse they will compact too much) But bales of hay would work. I use a mix of hay and pebbles (I ordered 3 square yards of pebbles last year as a way to save money on soil). And it works quite well. Sometimes the roots go past the top soil, but that doesn't hurt them as roots can grow quite well in hay.
Zone 8b, Canada

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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Yea, I was thinking 1"pea stones, 10" of packed straw, and then 10" of potting mix.

I want to plant a small variety of trailing tomato, green sausage, or maybe a dwarf melon or something in it, along with some lettuce. They are about 15 gallon pots. Pretty large. Prolly mulch them with pine straw or nuggets, something like that!

I think I'm gonna try it! I have pretty much everything I need, and extra seedlings that need "thinned".
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

But when you do that, you deprive the plant (s) of full amount of soil and nutrients, and when the roots reach down and find the "filler" layer you'll probably see a rapid decline.

My idea of "filler" is to mix the bottom half potting mix with half decomposed compost or big chunks -- decayed sticks, sweetgum balls, corn cobs, chunky shellfish remains, nutshells, avocado skin and pits, Etc. that I screened out of compost. And EARTHWORMS! I also mix in pea gravel, chicken grit, shredded bark mulch, etc. -- Think larger aggregate.
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Apple, didn't you do straw bale garden one year? How did that go?

Did you mix in stuff with the hay bale?
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I wouldn't use the pea gravel or the straw/hay. Go to Home Depot and buy soil conditioner and use that. What they call soil conditioner is really pine bark fines, it's small chunks of woodchips almost fully decomposed and it will probably be cheaper than pea gravel. I use it it containers and raised beds mixed with Black Cow, Humus and Manure and the cheapest potting mix that's on sale and have no problems and it's cheap, $2.47 a bag down here. You'll need to add fertilizer and do weekly feeding because it drains well and the nutrients will get washed out from rains but the good thing is you don't have to worry about salt build up.

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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Yeah I guess soil conditioner is a good idea. I just really like using straw at the base because people actually grow in straw bales (called straw bale gardening). And I have never seen a change in how the plant starts to grow when gbe roots reach the hay.

The hay gets wet and gets mixed with the soil on top, and so the plants don't even notice that it's not soil down there.
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Are you using hay or straw. Big difference.

Mine wasn't a "real" STRAWBALE GARDEN since I wasn't willing to use chemical heavy nitrogen source nor typical organic like blood meal or manure. Plus I didn't have the space to use full square bales arranged into a bed. To compensate for the nitrogen deficiency, I used 1/2 straw and 1/2 hay and also spent extra for a bale of alfalfa hay which is top tier hay for nitrogen.

The combo broke down quickly and the plants loved the extra heat from the composting mix and the Roman orgy of earthworms. :>
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Well.... I guess technically, what I have left over is straw.... But it IS heavily seeded, and currently sprouting densely. I keep turning the bale to kill it off. Took a peek inside the bale yesterday, and there are tons of seeds sprouting in the middle, and you could see steam rising in our cool weather....? Idk. I got nothing to lose. Maybe some pride? :roll: :lol: I have seedlings that are going in the trash if I don't do something with them. Have the pots. Have the seeds. Have pea gravel (used old aquarium rocks). Have a nice front porch.

I have no problem supplementing... Maybe if I sprinkled some kelp meal in there with it, it would help. Have some 2-4 year old blood meal out in the shed...(gag) Fish emulsion under the sink...(double gag!!!) compost waiting for warmer days! Maybe I'll mulch with compost! Water with tea!

Who knows... I just know my inner hoarder doesn't want to toss perfectly good seedlings in the trash! And I don't want to spend anymore money on the garden.
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Older thread with great info.

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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I'm glad you revived this thread. There are some good points in this. However, I have to add this:

Soil: The kind of soil you use in a container will often depend on the plant and your watering habits.
Some people do like to add some soil to their container. It does add soil microorganisms, but it is also heavy and prone to
contraction.

Mushroom compost is good. I have used it in the garden, but it is harder to find locally. It has a mid range pH of 6.6. In my soil, it actually raised the pH because my soil was more acidic with a pH of 6.4.

I only add a couple of handfuls of vermicast to my 5 gallon bucket of potting mix. Composts don't work well in pots for me. It holds too much water and the root development is slower without heavy supplementation.

My basic mix is a sterile one one part peat moss, one part perlite + osmocote.

The thing about peat moss. Pure peat moss is acidic with a pH range of around 3.3 but most commercial peat moss is limed by the manufacturer to a pH of around 6. Organic peat moss may still be limed, it is allowed, however, it will not have any wetting agents. The wetting agents help peat moss to absorb water better, otherwise, like coir it can take awhile to wet it evenly. Peat moss is an anaerobic compost. By itself, it does not contain much nutrients but provides good root support. It does need drainage material to keep it loose and draining well.

Unless your container is very large, you will need to supplement an organic mix since it is not sustainable. Organic fertilizer needs to be broken down by soil bacteria to be available to plants. There is usually not enough of a microbial colony in small pots to sustain themselves and a plant. Weekly fish emulsion, kelp, compost tea will be necessary especially for hungry plants like tomatoes.

For the hungry plants like tomatoes, I add additional fertilizer at the time of planting. I do use synthetic fertilizer about a half cup of slow N complete fertilizer. I like 9-12-12 or 6-4-6. For plants that are going to be in the pots longer than 45 days, they get additional monthly supplements. Even my 18 gallon pot would not support a microbial life large enough to support a tomato on organic fertilizer (even if I added it 6 mos before). I don't really like the squatty organic plants. I actually like the corn and tomatoes to reach their full 8 ft height.

Watering: I have to go with the school of watering as needed. Small plants in small pots need daily watering. They have a relatively large surface area and small soil volume so they dry out faster. I have my starter bench outside in full sun and exposed to the wind and rain, so it dries in one day. Indoors with less air circulation, your experience will be different.

When plants are young and they have a large soil volume compared to root mass, they can go longer without water since the media will have water reserves. If the plant is pot bound, it has very little media and stresses out very quickly and needs more frequent watering or needs to be potted up.

Heavy media like the compost, soil mix with no drainage material like perlite, vermiculite or cinder will stay wetter longer but the finer mix will have less air space. You can go longer between watering, but you need to be careful about over watering.

Stage of growth, season (temperature, rain) will also affect how often you need to water.

Plants that have storage capacity (bulbs) succulents, desert rose, some orchids have habitats with naturally wet and dry seasons. When plants go dormant, they need a lot less water. Orchids in pots (especially plastic on a bench) even outdoors get water a couple of times a week whether they need it or not. Orchids mounted on trees, in baskets, attached to fences and walls, in pots without media, and generally with their roots hanging out and not confined by media or pots can be watered every day. (Vandaceous species, honohono dendrobiums).

Actively fruiting and flowering plants need leaf cover, nutrients, and water volume to support the fruit and flowers

While I do think bottom watering is best. It is not always practical. I settle for watering at the base of the plant rather than at the leaves. However, if it is whitefly season, then it is my habit to spray the undersides of the leaves every time I water. I try to water early in the morning so the plants can dry quickly.

Container saucers are a no-no. The first thing I do with a hanging basket with a built in saucer is rip it off and throw it away. I also don't like self watering containers. They are self killing.

I do like SIPS. Tomatoes do very well in 18 gallon SIPS and with a 5 gallon reservoir, I don't have tomatoes wilting at midday or BER. However, I do have to admit that dry farmed tomatoes have more flavor. I think that having too much water does affect the quality of the fruit. I grow tomatoes in 18 gallon regular containers and I still have no problems with wilting or BER when they are watered daily. The roots will go out the bottom of the container into the ground and that is how the tomatoes protect themselves.

Plants that are large and will be in the containers long term will be planted in pure cinder. That is how I plant the citrus, bay leaf, succulents, some of the orchids, and bonsai. Cinders have a lot of air space but will not compact. It requires regular fertilizer, but I have citrus trees in pots for over 20 years and I have not had to repot them.
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Great info imafan. I’m curious as to your negative feelings on self watering containers. I’m looking for as much info as I can hoping to avoid disaster.

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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I think imafan’s differentiating between self-watering vs. sub-irrigated. Was wondering about the difference myself. :?:
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I’m currently making some buckets and totes and I just got an Earthbox. I’ve heard them called both so I’m curious as to the difference now.

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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Self watering containers don't have the air gap, that the SIP does. It can rain nearly every day in the cooler months of the year and the saucers and raised centers of the pot holds so much water that the oxygen in the soil is lost and the roots of the plants rot.

The air gap in the sub irrigated planter allows the soil in the submerged cups or perforated pots or pipes to wick up water and keep the soil constantly moist. The air gap does allow air to still infiltrate the soil above the reservoir.
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

Ah. thanks imafan — I thought that might be the key point.

Do you make holes/slits in the sides of your containers? I got the idea from orchid pots. They help keep the roots aerated when bottom holes are blocked — I try to make them for most non-porous containers

- 2-4 staggered rows up the sides for most solid plastic containers (even drinking cups for seedlings)
- holes that are too big cause the potting mix to wash out (yeah, done that)
- I cut V slits and Λ slits which tend to be easier to make than round holes ...box cutter works for nursery pots — looking for ways to do this easily for thicker plastic containers like buckets (especially ones that are already planted)

...I try not to drill the holes or use saw-type tools because they make such a mess of shavings. I also found cutting goes faster than drilling in many cases when dealing with thinner plastic. I’ve been cutting pvc pipes a lot lately and am wondering if a cutting tool like the wheel on pvc cutter that cuts by pressing the sharp wheel through exists for cutting a slit on a bucket.
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Re: Essence of Container Gardening

I see the difference that imafan was referring to now. I’ve had bad results with regular containers and I agree that the airspace is key. I heard once of someone finding bark and sticks that were “just right” and mixing them in. I guess that means stage of decomp :?: :)

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