With the advent of smaller yards and less time to care for them, container gardening is gaining in popularity. The beautiful thing about this type of gardening is that is translates so easily into an indoor hobby during the winter months and is portable. Containers make small space gardening flexible and fun.
Gardening in containers take a little more care than gardening in the ground. Exactly how much attention your garden needs will depend on the plants you select, the light exposure and the size of the container. You will also need to use a water soluble fertilizer every week to promote healthy growth.
Containers must be large enough to give the roots room to grow but use your imagination and you can come up with all kinds of unusual things to use as planters. They only thing that is really necessary is to provide drainage and if your pot does not have this you can provide it by using gravel, large bark, broken pottery or even styrofoam peanuts in the bottom.
Use a good grade of commercial potting soil and start with healthy plants. Consider the light available when selecting your plants. Plants in the same pot must share similar light and water requirements. Also consider what size the plant will be at maturity. Do not select something too large for your container.
When planting, set your plants into the containers so that they will be at the same level as they were in the nursery containers. Be sure all roots are covered and that they plants are anchored securely. The soil surface should be about ½ inch below the rim of the pot so that water will not run off. Water thoroughly immediately after planting. Monitor watering needs and water when soil becomes dry to the tough about 1” down in the pot. Don’t over water! The larger the container, the greater the soil volume and therefore less water will be needed, depending on the water requirements of the plant, of course. Another way to decrease the amount of time spent watering is to add Soil Moist crystals to the soil at the time of planting. These crystals expand and hold water and will keep the moisture in the soil for a longer period of time. They are especially useful if you travel a lot or simply forget to check your plants very often.
Depending on where you plan to display your containers, the choices are virtually limitless. Vegetables, flowers, even small shrubs can be utilized in the appropriate sized containers. Plant a riot of color using annuals or perennials to create that unique pot next to your front door or on a deck or patio. Annuals will give you a pop of flower power and bloom all season with regular water and fertilizer. How about a sunny themed garden? Use plants like blooming varieties of cactus, burros tails and others that will take the strong sunlight and heat. These, of course, would need southern/western exposure. If you are craving fresh green things to cook with why not try an herb container garden? It could even be themed around your particular needs- salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc. Herbs grow well in containers and are easily available from your local garden center, or they can easily be started from seed. Following this trend, there are now many vegetables that have been bred specifically for use in smaller spaces or containers.
When planting flowers, I use a “Chillers, Fillers, Thrillers, and Spillers” formula. The thriller is either something unusual or something that will make you say “wow!” A good example of a thriller would be Little Black Dress petunias. Or Lemon Slice calibrachoa. Something bright or unusual that catches the eye. The chiller is a white or light colored accent plant. Bacopa, calibrachoa, white geraniums, or white impatiens are all chillers. The filler is just that- fill in material that accents and complements the rest of the container to fill in the space. These could be calibrachoa, petunias, marigolds- anything that works in the arrangement. And the spiller is something, usually like bacopa, dichondra silver falls or vinca vine that “spills” over the pot to create a beautiful look.
No matter what your choices are, a container garden can be made to suit nearly everyone. If you can no longer garden in your yard or no longer have space, containers provide a way to keep your hands in the soil. Whether you choose to use herbs, small veggies, or just a bold, beautiful pot of flowers, container gardens can add color and interest to any home.
Gail Vanik can be reached at 565-8274, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at fourseasonsgreenhouse.com.