Tinkering with containers
Published on: Sunday, September 29, 2019
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Concrete planter box.
GARDENING in our everyday lives is a very simple and straightforward matter. It is either done on or off the ground, which therefore presents an almost limitless scope in which to carry out the activity.  Just take a look around and you will realise that this is very true, especially since the opportunity to partake of nature is very much boosted by the easy availability of a wide variety of plants and planting containers.  

With such a boundless combination that can be had for any landscape or garden plans with the seemingly unending choices of plants and containers, the results that can be obtained can be really mind-boggling.  It all boils down to the depth of the creative power that can be expended to satisfy dreams.  And dreams are light and easy.  Like something that can be breezed through such as ideas, visions and thoughts.

So there you are, well-armed with ideas and visions, you will soon be on your way to an awesome planting plan made up of plants in pots and other kinds of containers.

As the phrase implies, container gardening is simply gardening that is carried out with plants that are confined within containers of any conceivable shape, size or material.  And as it does not involve breaking the ground which means there is no ground-breaking ceremony to bog you down, it is therefore one of the simplest and most pleasant of all pastimes.  Over the ages, it has proven to be the easy way out to a lovely, enjoyable and easily-managed activity.

This is all the more acceptable as there are nowadays many gardens up there somewhere in condos or apartments where owners lovingly and tenderly tend to their collection of precious indoor plants assisted by one or two helpful  interior naturescapers.  

Invariably, indoor naturescapes use a good number of pots and other kinds of containers which are usually of a style and quality that befits the standard of the space.  Unlike backyard gardening on landed properties, containers used that are made of discarded bottles and rusty tins, cracked pots and the like, are absolutely no-nos as they may tarnish the good image of the interior environment of high end spaces.  However, there is nothing to stop anyone from being a true friend of the environment by insisting on recycling, reducing and recycling, and some say, repurposing too.

The approach to a successful container garden is surprisingly quite simple.  It involves only three primary elements, namely (1) the plant, (2) the container or pot, and (3) the medium of growth which is usually the soil although liquid is a suitable medium for many plants, and sterile or artificial medium.

A host of other secondary inputs may also be necessary to complete the picture such as a couple of small packets of fertilisers, a few light and small-sized hand tools, a pair of gloves, a cuppa or two of a suitable drink to quench your parched throats, and so on.  All these items, individually, are not really bulky or heavy, so this form of gardening does not really require much effort to get going.

As an indication of the increasing popularity of container gardening, one need not go far to ascertain the fact.  In fact, it is possible to count a good number of pots just by turning to look at the gardens in your neighbourhood.  It therefore goes without saying that container cultivation has become part and parcel of the activities of most gardening enthusiasts nowadays.


Various colours and shapes of plastic pots.

Advantages of container gardening

Every form of activity has its advantages and disadvantages.  The question is, which one outweighs the other.  In container gardening, the outstanding characteristics are as follows:

Firstly, container cultivation is so simple and easy you do not need to have a muscular body to prepare, for instance, the soil, unlike the diggings and more diggings that is the usual case in ground cultivation.  

If egg jars or concrete planters are too heavy, bulky and unwieldy, there is a limitless choice in using smaller plants in smaller pots to suit your needs.  In fact, some pots are so light it can be easily lifted with your little finger without breaking into a sweat.


Discarded tyres cut in such a way as to hold earth for planting something.

Secondly, the beauty of potted plants in particular, and container cultivation in general, cannot be overemphasised.  You can cook up instant shapes and colours by using potted plants to meet any situation.  For instance, on certain occasions, you may want more red, while on others, it could be purple or orange.  Or you may want those that are more airy, tall and wavy rather than the shorter, compact and dense ones.  

What you need to do is to cultivate the plants for a period of time before they can be displayed, or faster still, to purchase from a supplier all the materials that can fulfil your needs.


Polystyrene boxes are amazingly productive. Just look at the juicy, crispy salad vegetable.

Thirdly, there is the convenience in container cultivation.  The compound immediately to the front or back of your house suits the purpose perfectly.  Even dwellers in flats, apartments or condominiums can have a fine container garden on their window sills or balconies, where beautiful and expensive pots can add a lot to quality living.  

Office buildings too can maximise on the little sunlight that filters inside in diffused form, and this should be sufficient to sustain many kinds of indoor plants in the greening of the interior environment. On small concrete areas, potted plants can be placed on racks to save a lot of space.  Even vertical gardens can be set up with the use of some simple contraptions that are secured to walls or some other structures to carry panels of plants or to create a cascade effect.

Fourthly, the added bonus is that you can always reshuffle the pots around if you are tired of looking at the same pots and plants day in and day out.  Also, diseased or scorched plants can be easily removed to some secluded spots to recover so that you don’t have to bear with the sight of some ugly plants meeting your eyes daily.

Fifthly, container gardening is extremely practical.  You actually do not need to go out to buy pots each time you feel like planting something, because within easy reach around you can usually be found all sorts of containers.  There are beer cans, milk powder and biscuit tins, cooking oil bottles, paint jars, plastic and G.I. sheet tubs, unwanted pails, earthernware jars, wooden boxes, glass canisters, and even discarded kitchen utensils such as cooking pots and kettles.

There are many more advantages, but these represent the main reasons why potted plants continue to be highly visible all over the place.


Types of containers/pots

Going by the shape, size, colour, material and price, there are literally hundreds of kinds of containers that are available to meet every conceivable need and use.  Because of the huge number to choose from, it is always wise to select only those that are suitable for the need.  In this case, the pot should not only match with the plant but also able to merge beautifully with the surroundings on completion of the planting.  Obviously, you can’t plant a small cactus in a large egg jar and neither can you put that on top of your table or on your window sill.

Containers can be made of anything, such as plastics, glass, porcelain, concrete, polystyrene, corrugated iron, aluminium, G.I. sheets, timber or clay materials.  Even the thick high fibre paper can be used as a planting container such as is often seen in the use paper cups to hold plants for a certain period of time.  


Plastic bottles cut out to grow vegetables.


However, the most common ones that we see around us are usually made of clay or plastic, and to varying degrees, concrete or brick troughs and planter boxes in the bigger gardening endeavours.

Plastic Pots – These containers are easily available, cheap, light and easy to handle, and can be conveniently stacked up for storage.  They are manufactured in different shapes, sizes and colours, and they are easy to clean, particularly when it comes to removing algal growths.  Besides, they conserve moisture well as there is no loss through the walls, and they do not readily harbour pathogens.  But they are unsuitable when exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time as they tend to become brittle and shatter easily.

Clay Pots – These may be glazed or unglazed.  The glazed ones are clean and easy to wash, and do not lose much moisture through seeping and evaporation through the walls.  The unglazed ones are more difficult to clean, grow algae and moss on its walls, and lose much moisture.  The cleaning process is tougher as it really needs stiff brushes to scrub off the growths and dirt from the external surfaces of such pots.  Cost-wise, glazed pots are of course more expensive to buy.  However, both kinds are heavy and bulky and are likely to get smashed up when dropped.

Metal Containers – The best examples are the usual milk tins both big and small, the traditional metal wash basins and bath tubs, paint tins, biscuit tins, discarded cooking pots and kettles, etc.  Since these are the unnatural and non-traditional planting containers, they therefore need several holes to be punched through the bottom of such gadgets to allow for drainage and aeration purposes.

Polystyrene Containers – These make very good structures to carry soil to plant anything.  The disadvantage is that it tears ad breaks up easily if handled roughly especially when overloaded with soil.  Fortunately, those polystyrene boxes that are between 10-15cm depth can last a surprisingly long time, and in the process yielding countless crops of especially the various varieties of fast-growing and short-maturity vegetables.

Wooden Boxes – Such contraptions have been in use since ages ago when wooden pellets were used to hold goods during transportation to various places.  Instead of the wooden slats or pellets being thrown away or burnt, some ingenious folks fashioned them and repurposed them into planting containers.  Until today, this is still a widely used means to grow something.

Glass And Ceramic – These are pricier stuffs which are unfortunately not easily found as discards in bin centres or 5-foot ways but which are available in supermarkets for a fee.  Being nice things, they do not come with holes at the base, which means you will need to drill holes using suitable tools, such as tungsten-tipped Drill Bits.

Paper Pots – These are not pots that are made up of the normal writing paper that one sees every day. They are made of wax-coated sheets for the smaller pots or cups, or rough fibre for those thicker and larger ones.  Normally such fibre-based contraptions can only last for a period of time that usually coincides with the time the plant is to be renewed or transplanted into permanent containers or onto the ground.

Others – Many other types of containers are available including baskets, sacks, burlap, polybags, coconut husks, etc.

l Readers who are keen to discuss the above topic or other gardening subjects, the writer may be reached at: onggrow@yahoo.com

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