Container Gardening: Don't Forget Drainage

02_13_09_containergarden.jpgIt's time to start planning, and planting, those spring container gardens! We learned an important lesson about drainage last fall that we don't want to repeat. When we planted lettuce seeds, a few fell on the ground. The seeds we painstakingly sowed, fertilized, watered, and otherwise cared for in the container were dismally small and never got tall enough to even harvest (exhibit A). But the seeds that fell 15 inches away on the ground flourished (exhibit B).

This could have been thanks to a number of reasons... But we're convinced that adequate drainage was the culprit. Jump below for tips on how to avoid the same mishap.

• First and foremost, make sure your container has adequate drainage holes. The more holes, the better.

• Use a lightweight soil mix (preferably organic) that is specifically designed for container gardening. You can purchase one, or make your own mix using an organic soil recipe.

• Get fancy with your drainage--remember this post about planting tomatoes? You can employ a funnel and make your own self-watering system, which will keep the roots happy but not bog them down.

• Toss rocks in the bottom of your container. This tip has its downsides--sometimes rocks can inhibit root growth, and will make your containers heavy--but a layer of them at the bottom will aid in drainage and probably do more good than harm.

• Or take a look at this recycled drainage material called Better Than Rocks. It may be a little pricey, but it's made of recycled plastic bottles and won't add any additional weight to your containers.

• For smaller pots or hanging baskets, use moss or peat to line the container.

Do you have any other drainage suggestions for getting started on a spring garden? Please share!

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