HOME > Chowhound > Gardening >

Discussion

Pots Vs. Ground

So I am entering my 4th garden season and plan to actually do my research this year and have a structured method. (last 3 gardens were spare moment couple peper plants and basil ) ... I live in Western PA and the soil in my yard is POLLUTED with ROCKS .. I am talking large pieces not gravel. First Year, i dug a out a section and filled in with some store bought soil. Repeated the next year. Although, last year I opted to just help maintain my families garden instead of going through the trouble and $ of starting up a new area.

What are everyones ideas / thoughts on using pots or planter instead of ground planting?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Our "soil" is decomposed granite, so we built raised beds and filled with decent garden soil, which I supplement with our own compost. Have also had very good luck with pots, but you need either a reliable drip watering system or very dedicated hand watering. Good luck.

    5 Replies
    1. re: pine time

      I've never had much luck with pots but attribute a lot of it to the heat of Tx being too intense with heat build-up inside the pot. Have you ever tried slitting open a large bag of garden soil and planting directly in it?

      1. re: pine time

        Thanks... how did you build the raise beds? My dad loves just using pots to plant most of the vegies, claimes they yeild much much higher results. CocaNut that is a different i ideat about just using the bag of soil, I will try it for sure this year!! . Heat is not that big of an issue for me in PA..
        I feel a raised bed might work well also-- I dug out a section of my yard about a foot deep and loaded soil into the area ( not cost effective and alot of work) ... No longer at that property so needed another method haha

        1. re: Augie6

          Just FYI, I've never done the bag of dirt method but read it here last year. Sounds plausible and probably cheaper than working with existing dirt. Definitely less work!!!

          1. re: CocoaNut

            Yea at first I thought you were jokeing, but it makes sense .. I wouldn't put anythign with heavy roots or top heave.. but I could see my peper plants working... Its worth the try hahahah

            1. re: Augie6

              I think they were being used in relation to a tomato plants post. I'd imagine over a couple of months, the plastic would give way to water rot and roots breaking through into the natural ground below. You lay the bag on its long flat side, not up! :) If you were planting more that a few plants, it could be $$$ depending on the quality of dirt bought.

      2. I just did a search using "raised beds" and came up with 39 posts.

        If you plan to continue gardening, the raised bed idea may be the way to go for you. I garden in AZ so our climates couldn't be more dis-similar and my experiences likely will not help you very much. However, with your rock situation, raised beds could be a permanent answer. In the long run, they'll be less expensive than pots.

        In my extreme climate - sometimes below freezing in the winter to 110+ in the summer, pots are iffy. With the summer sunshine blasting the sides of the pots, it's a wonder the roots aren't fried instead of simply struggling. I never had this problem with raised beds.

        1. I have better luck with herbs in pots than in the ground; all kinds of basil, rosemary, thyme, and dill usually grow more plant than I use. They do have to be watered every day in the summer.

          As you know you don't need a huge space to grow a lot of plants in the ground. if it were me I would focus on just getting sections workable like you're doing and you'll eventually finish the whole garden. Building raised beds would be just as much work.

          1. We built our raised bed out of non-mortared building blocks that "click" together. Can be any length/width you need, and we added drip irrigation. About planting directly in the plastic garden soil bags: we found the plastic can heat up too much for delicate plants, but worked well for heat-loving plants like tomatoes.

            1. You might want to try a method called lasagna gardening. It uses layers of compost, mulch and soil laid on top of the ground. People have used this method successfully on top of pavement as well. http://www.google.com/search?q=lasagn...

              Growing in potting soil bags works well for leafy crops, small root crops like radishes, short varieties of carrots, some of the baby beet varieties. You can up end the bags supported in tubs or garbage cans(drilled for drainage) for more deep rooted crops. Be sure to puncture the bags for drainage. They will last through an entire growing season and once the crops are harvested the used soil can be added to the compost pile or tilled into the soil of an existing bed. Potatoes can be grown above ground in a deep straw bed or in tire towers.

              There are also various sizes of grow bags out on the market. http://www.google.com/search?q=lasagn...

              We've got hard clay, granite and quartz for soil. We pull small boulders out of the beds on a regular basis, not to mention all the accompanying rocks and gravel. We have raised beds but actually double dug those beds, removing the soil and screening it back into the beds to get rid of the gravel, then adding lots of compost, shredded dry leaves, amendments and other organic matter. Yes it was back breaking work and yes it took a long time but we've never had to till it again and we can plunge an arm into the soil nearly up to an elbow. We're able to rake in fertilizers, compost and amendments, and plant and cultivate with nothing more than hand tools. We add 2-4 new beds a year. We're at this house for the duration now so all this work is worth the effort. If you plan or expect to be moving from your present location, you're probably better off using a regular raised bed or lasagna method in addition to container planting.

              6 Replies
              1. re: morwen

                One problem with the lasagna method is that is provides great habitat for overwintering flea beetles.

                1. re: Eldon Kreider

                  I built my first lasagna bed in 2007. It decomposes pretty quickly. I've added more beds and not noticed an flea beetles. Perhaps the wild birds help keep the bug population down. I aimed for 24" tall of layered ingredients topped with some beautiful composted horse manure. That original bed is now level with the adjacent grass paths. It would be nice to have sides but also expensive.

                  I also use large plastic pots bought on sale, half barrels, old tin wash tubs, etc as containers. The smaller pots hold herbs. The only thing I didn't think did well in a pot was cucumbers the year we had a lot of rain. I think all the nutrients washed out. When I went on a garden tour I noticed their potted cucumbers looked as yellow as mine while nearby cucumbers growing in the ground looked great.

                  For a couple of years I used a stack of old tires to hold enough soil for zucchini plants.

                  Go with easy. I think just about everything works as long as the container is deep enough for the plant that is growing in it.

                2. re: morwen

                  Inane immense admiration for your dedication and determination.

                  1. re: CocoaNut

                    Those new beds get constructed only in the early spring or late fall when it's cool enough to do that kind of work so we're not totally insane. Every new bed means that much less lawn to mow! While I hate the work of pulling the rocks out of new beds, I have to admit we've found some real beauties (like the large heart-shaped rose quartz that now resides in one of the herb beds). I've gotten very good at building low rubble walls that designate certain areas of the property (like guest parking) and planting them with trailing herbs and flowering vines, and the rock garden which is a continuing work in progress.

                    1. re: morwen

                      Repurposing too!!! There are certainly some beaut's buried just beneath the surface.

                      (Sorry about the "inane" word - it should've been "I'm in" - stupid not-so-smart phone's spell check) Regardless of when the work was done, it is certainly a large amount of industrious work to be recognized!

                      1. re: CocoaNut

                        Nonetheless, there must be something twisted in us that keeps us digging! ;-) Plus it gives us an excuse to fill up the jacuzzi!

                        We've gotta do something with all those effin' rocks! My husband wants to build a mini henge up in the orchard right next to the boundary with our fundamentalist neighbors!

                3. I live is SE PA and I've been using pots for about 10 years. Started when we pretty much wiped out the back yard with 1,000 sqft deck. Now I live in a townhouse in an over-55 community and don't have any ground to grow so I use pots on the patio. I plant herbs, veggies and flowers. All do well. I mix the soil about 50/50 dirt & sand. You have to water at least once a day, more in July/Aug. I use Miracle-gro for the first month or so, applying it weekly. At the end of the season, I put the soil in a large trash can and leave it on the patio over the winter. I put the pots in the garage. Some of the flowers & herbs come inside to a large plant stand in a west-facing window. I cut them back to the top of the pot and water them weekly. As soon as the temps hit 55 overnight, I put them outside. Some of the flowers are about 8-9 years-old. The herbs don't last that long. Give it a shot even if you do the raised beds. I think you'll find you like it!

                  1. Ever think of buying a small children's pool? You know, one of those big round plastic ones (not the inflatable ones)?
                    Drill in some holes for drainage and fill with dirt. Would make a nice easy raised 'bed' area without the worry of rocks.

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: Augie6

                        Did a quick search.

                        Not the prettiest garden, but well contained, easily managed, and very inexpensive.

                        http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.c...

                      2. re: Novelli

                        Ok, I love this! Wish I had thought of it when I was limited to container gardening. We use a kiddie pool to raise chicks until they are big enough to go out to the coop.

                      3. You might also have a look at Square Foot Gardening -- high-density raised beds with a mix of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat, and 1/3 vermiculite.

                        It works well -- I tried it for the first time last year and had more tomatoes than we could eat and give away, and I had a blast.

                        1. the rocks make back breaking work. I'd go square foot raised bed. you can cycle your finished compost into it each year for a new bed and no worry about lead in your soil. plus you can make a beautiful edible landscape and eat with your eyes too. i like to rotate each year by planting my spuds in a bag and emptying that into the raised bed to raise the soil level.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: thatsacrunchy

                            I grew potatoes in a bag last year, and there is no other method for me. An attractive plant around the patio, and no digging or spearing potatos with pitchfork. And I had NO slugs in my potatoes -- they don't like the feel of the bag, and won't climb it.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              sunshine - what was in that bag? I'd love to try that on my patio. I assume you punched some holes in it for drainage?

                              1. re: RAGHOUND

                                I used rubble sacks -- the heavy woven sacks that contractors use to hold bricks, busted-up concrete, etc. --- it's porous, so no holes necessary.

                                I used a commercial version of the recommended Square Foot Gardening mix -- 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat, and 1/3 vermiculite.