Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally (Cool Springs Press, 2017), by Mark Highland is a modern visual guide to growing organically. The book provides step-by-step photography and how-to projects so readers can take a hands-on look at updated popular gardening techniques. The following excerpt is from Chapter 10, "Organic Container Gardening."
Most container gardens are planted in plastic or terracotta (pots made from orange-colored, unglazed ceramic clay) containers. Either can be obtained from local garden shops. Plastic containers are more economical to purchase and hold moisture better than terracotta, which is porous and "breathes" more than solid plastic. Although terracotta pots require more frequent watering, one advantage is that the pots allow for faster wet and dry cycles in the potting soil, which helps spur growth rates.
Consider using a glazed ceramic pot if you want the container to hold more moisture. This is a good "in between" choice. There are thousands of types of ceramic glazed containers in every color of the rainbow to suit individual tastes, but all will crack if the soil inside them freezes solid. It's best to empty ceramic or terracotta containers of soil and store them upside-down for the winter if you want to guarantee their use the following season (unless you live in a subtropical climate, in which case you can ignore that piece of advice and garden year-round).
Fiber pots are relative newcomers to the world of gardening containers. They combine the utility and light weight of plastic pots with the breathability of terracotta. Fiber pots come in all sizes and colors and some even come with handles. These pots last many seasons, are not subject to breaking if the soil inside them freezes, and they can be sterilized in between crops if desired. And it's easy to remove old rootballs from fiber pots. Run your hand around the rootball, just inside the pot. Just like pulling up on a Velcro strip, the rootball will become detached from the fiber pot for easy removal.
Window boxes and hanging baskets are two classic examples of planting containers. Window boxes are more popular in urban environments where outdoor gardening opportunities are scarce. There are even containers designed with a window box look, but which are made to attach to railings on a deck or porch. Hanging baskets are everywhere in summer, and are readily available in pre-designed and pre-planted form at your local garden center.
Even though most container gardens are planted in traditional pots, any container that holds soil can work. Anything can be transformed into a container garden if it can hold enough soil to plant something: whiskey barrels cut in half, broken ceramic cups, old shoes or boots, tires, old dressers, old filing cabinets, 50-gallon drums... the list could go on forever, and is only limited by your creativity. Ideally, the container choice will allow for a sufficient volume of soil to support the plants chosen to grow in it. Basic translation: If you have a broken coffee cup, try planting one succulent in it, not a tomato plant. Bigger containers hold more soil and can therefore hold more plants or larger plants.
Excerpted with permission from Practical Organic Gardening, by Mark Highland. Published by Cool Springs Press, © 2017.
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