Container gardening is fun, easy and very rewarding. It’s also a great project for the family and a neat way to reconnect kids with Mother Nature. In just a few hours you can beautify even the smallest spaces, provide a focal point of interest, or screen an unsightly spot. Here are some things to consider before you begin.
Almost anything can be used as a container
Let your imagination go wild. Drainage is key – you don’t want just good drainage, you want great! If in doubt, drill some additional holes in the bottom of your container.
Choose the right size
The bigger the pot, the easier it will be to water (less often!) but the heavier it will be. Don’t fill it with dirt far from its final home. Put castors under the “big boys” to help with mobility. You can also invert an empty pot in the bottom of your container before filling to create an air pocket, saving weight and soil.
Plant with annuals, perennials, even shrubs
It’s fun to experiment. If you choose one plant that’s as tall as your container, it will provide visual balance. Foliage color and texture is just as important as flower color. Choose one or two plants that will spill and trail over the side for even more eye candy.
Double check before watering
The plants will let you know. If they wilt (and the soil is dry) then it’s time to water deeply. You’ll want to see some seepage out of the drain holes. Tip: don’t just go by the soil surface. Plunge your finger into the soil mix and see if it feels moist/cool. If not, then that’s the clue to water deeply. The best rule of thumb is “if in doubt, don’t,” as overwatering is the silent killer.
Trim back for rebloom
As some plants finish flowering they can get leggy. Don’t be afraid to freshen them up by trimming them back. In many cases this will encourage reblooming.
Fertilize up to a point
Fertilize for healthy plants – but stop in the early fall about six weeks before your first frost date. This will help the plants that you plan to overwinter get ready for their “nap.”
Fight back against wind
Windy spot? You can place something heavy like a couple of bricks or large rocks in the bottom of a pot to act as a counterbalance and limit tipping. Need to stake? Consider placing three or four supports around the outside and tying them together at the top to make a triangular or square pyramid. It’ll be much more wind-proof than a single support.
Prepare for winter
Overwintering will be a challenge if you’ve selected perennials or shrubs as their roots need to be protected from extreme cold. Try to choose plants rated for two hardiness zones colder than where you are if they are staying put for the winter. It’s better to lift the plants out of their container and plant out in the garden for winter as the ground is a natural heat source. You can always replant them later in the spring.