Container gardening pros and cons

Fava beans grown in #5 pots

Think of growing veggies in pots as mini raised beds. Because that’s what they are with certain advantages and only a few caveats.

Advantages;
1. Using plastic pots in sizes ranging from #5 (5gal) up to #25 (25 gal) or larger is a far cheaper proposition than the material costs of a “raised bed”/garden box.
Additionally, most pot/container setups are temporary, allowing for other uses of the space when not in garden use.
2. Using black plastic pots or black painted containers will help to warm soil above the surrounding ground soils allowing for earlier planting in temperate climates. This same factor can also help to prolong a growing season.
3. Containers can help to protect plants from gopher attacks as well as slow potential damage from other animals.
4. A pot is usually easier than a full bed to cover with wire or row cover cloth to give protection from birds when starting seeds or transplants.
5. Containers can be filled with either mineral soils or planting mixes as long as they are well-draining materials.
6. Containers/pots can help to conserve water use by allowing for point irrigation.
7. Growing in pots and large containers can be ergonomically more suitable for weeding and harvesting, especially for handicapped gardeners.
8-Certain crops such as potatoes, burdock, daikon radish, and others can be harvested more easily than having to dig them up.
9. Frost tender perennial food plants grown in containers can be moved into greenhouses or under protective cover during winter conditions.
10. Pots or other containers have the advantage of allowing for gardening where there is no ground soil present such as on patios, driveways, balconies, porches, etc. or in situations where the soil is too hard to cultivate.

Caveats;
1. Pots and other containers must have adequate drainage. A single hole is not enough. Many ceramic pots are very limited as to their drain hole sizes. If planting in such pots be sure that the plant can endure “wet feet”.
2. If using a commercial potting mix be careful that it does not have too high a water holding capacity as to become waterlogged.
3. Some mixes that are high in peat-moss or coconut coir if left to dry out completely can become hydrophobic making it very difficult to rehydrate. Shoot for an “evenly moist” condition.
4. Soil mixes have a habit of compacting over time and washing out of the drain holes. This isn’t a problem for annuals but for perennial plants, you should inspect each new season and either repot to a bigger pot if needed or add soil to the top if roots are exposed or to the bottom (pull the plant and repot) if soil level has dropped.
5. During high-temperature periods (80+ degrees F) soil mix in plastic pots can become very hot. As much as 110-120F in just a few hours of direct sunlight. At 85F, this can cause root damage and plant collapse. This is really only a problem in smaller pots especially #1 or one-gallon size pots.
6. If pots are placed directly onto soil you should expect that some vigorous species will eventually root into the ground through the drainage holes. This is not a problem for annuals as long as you leave them in place. For perennials that you may wish later to move it’s best to first use a large enough pot and to put some sort of soil barrier in place below the pot that does not restrict drainage.
*Gophers do cross the open ground sometimes and can climb into a pot that is less than 8” inches in height. Also, they can sometimes chew through plastic drain holes enlarging them enough to gain entry. If gophers are an issue then it’s best to put a piece of either hardware cloth or ½ inch poultry wire under your pot and around the drainage holes.
As always happy gardening!.

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