Types of Gardening Containers
With so many different types of gardening containers, plant pots and planters to choose from, it can be confusing knowing which type would best suit which use, which actually present value for money, and which would the plant prefer? What are the pros and cons of each one? Are they intended for inside or outside, how large is the plant they are intended for, and are they meant to be more functional or ornamental?
Clay Plant PotsClay pots are the ones we are all probably most familiar with. They are baked and may be glazed (in which case they are usually called terracotta pots and cost more!) and come in all different shapes and sizes: from small round pots suitable for small cacti, to troughs and large tubs.
The pros are that they are widely available and the basic unglazed clay plant pots are not expensive. There is also a large variety of shapes and sizes to choose from. Unglazed clay pots are lovely for children to paint (see Painting Clay Pots for instructions) and add their personal touch to - and then give as a gift or keep and show off with pride! Glazed pots are equally suited to being painted, and available in a variety of colours.
The cons are that they are breakable, and the chards can have sharp edges, hence not necessarily a good idea for very young children. A number of the clay plant pots are also not frost-proof, so will need bringing in during the winter. Since the clay is porous, more water is lost, and plants or flowers in clay pots will need watering more frequently.
Plastic Plant Pots
Plastic plant pots and gardening containers are fast gaining in popularity. Again, they come in all shapes and sizes, and are made from a variety of different plastics. More heavy-duty plastics such as polypropylene, are used to make larger troughs and ornamental tubs.
Fairly new to the scene are so-called self-watering plant pots. These don't actually water themselves, but they do include an inbuilt reservoir at the base of the pot, which means that the plant doesn't need watering as frequently - a useful idea especially when longer holidays are planned!
The pros are that plastic plant pots are generally cheaper and lighter than the equivalent clay gardening containers. They are available in many different colours, but can also be spray painted if desired. For younger children, they offer a safe alternative to the standard clay pot.
The cons are that sunlight can make them brittle and they don't have the same heat insulation as clay. The very cheap ones are to be avoided as the plastic is just too thin - unless you like the idea of them splitting and spilling mud on your kitchen floor!
Stone ContainersSome old planters made of natural stone look lovely and ornamental, but tend to be very expensive and heavy. Reconstructed stone containers are less expensive and quite widely available in different sizes and styles. They tend to look nice in a garden or a patio regardless of what has been planted in them, as the container itself is usually ornamental.
The pros of natural or reconstructed stone containers as planters is that they are solid, have good heat insulation and last a long, long time. Moss growing on them tends to become them, not something which applies to the plastic versions!
The cons are that they are heavy, expensive and tend to be larger rather than smaller, which may be fine for older children, but really is not too suitable for young children - unless you are fortunate enough to find an old stone trough which would be just at the right height for them but which they cannot knock over!
Wooden Gardening ContainersThink of wooden containers for gardening and we usually think of an old half-barrel filled with flowers. But becoming equally popular are square or rectangular wooden planters, and window boxes can also be made of wood - if buying new check that they have been treated with a suitable preservative. They can be bought ready made and finished, or as DIY kits. And it is really easy to make your own wooden planter out of planks.
The pros of wooden planters is that they look nice, have good heat insulation and can be easy and cheap to make oneself to the exact size one wants or needs. Usually a good choice for larger container gardening projects, and one which is easy to paint and add that personal touch to.
The cons are that they do require maintenance in the form of being treated with preservatives every year or so. Sometimes the wood can split, or the metal bands (in the case of a half-barrel) or nails can go rusty and weaken the structure.
Gardening Containers for Specific Plants
There are various gardening containers and pots available commercially for specific plants, such as strawberry planters for growing strawberries, or potato planters for growing potatoes. The former are equally useful for growing herbs, and often marketed as such. These are also available in different sizes, styles and colours and usually made of either clay (as in strawberry or herb pots) or strong plastic (as in potato planters).
The pros are that they are specifically designed for the job in hand, and can be adapted for other plants too. They are also usually light-weight, ornamental and simply look nice!
The cons .... to be honest, I can't think of any!
Junk and DIY Pots and Planters
If you are handy, or simply have a lot of junk hanging around, there is almost nothing that cannot be used for planting something or another. We had a spider plant that lived quite happily in an old teapot for years, and use an antique potty to hide the rather ugly plastic plant pot which is home to a Benjaminus Ficus. Outside, tires can be stacked to create a taller gardening container for larger plants - you could try growing potatoes in tires - old drums can be painted with rust inhibitor and then used in the same way. Old scraps of wood can be nailed together to create planters which blend in nicely.
Junk yards can offer a wealth of interesting containers. Old chimney pots are frequently seen trailing with beautiful flowers in the corner of gardens, Dublin sinks look lovely with bedding plants in them and even old bath tubs can find a new lease of life in the garden. Buckets which can no longer carry water due to holes in their base are perfectly designed as planters - the drainage holes are already provided!
For smaller plants or seedlings, why not keep used yoghurt pots? Mugs with their handles broken off make the perfect companion to these impromptu plant pots!
Use your imagination, or even better, ask your children, and they are guaranteed to find countless possible pots and planters all over the house, garden and scrap yard!
Novelty Planters and Pots
There are more and more novelty plant pots and plant holders on the market, some plain tacky and others absolutely delightful! More often than not, these novelty products are designed to hold either a plastic or clay plant pot rather than actually being some form of gardening container themselves. However, they deserve a mention because they are fun and kids love them!
Other containers suitable for planting
Besides those already mentioned, there are of course hanging baskets, window boxes, wall mounted baskets, grow bags and even upside down planters suitable for growing tomatoes and cucumbers. Raised beds could also be classified as gardening containers, but more often than not they are more of a garden design feature.
Whichever gardening container you go for, ensure that it is suitable for the plant you intend growing in it and suits your overall needs. Then all that remains is to enjoy potting the plants up and watching them grow!
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