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GardenSMART Episode

Show #43/6604. Tips And Tricks Utilizing Containers

Summary of Show

Lush Sod
One of the finishing touches that really makes this garden sing is the LUSH SOD that frames it. The sod creates a wonderful backdrop to the vibrant colors featured in this beautiful garden. Jason Nugent from Harmony Sod joins GardenSMART to discuss the importance of selecting the right grass for your garden. Eric thanks Jason for joining us on the show. Today, we're talking about sod and Eric couldn't be more excited about it. Any chance we get to talk about sod is a great opportunity. Eric has been watching this garden develop over many, many months. There’s been so much work that's gone into this garden and one of the beautiful finishing touches that cannot be underestimated is the impact that this sod has made.
For More Information Click here

Bimini Bermuda
Eric and Jason next talk about the sod that was used for this garden. It's a Bermuda. There are hundreds of cultivators, probably more, of Bermuda. This is specifically BIMINI BERMUD and was developed by Bethel Farms in Florida. And this grass is available in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and now Iraq. They just sent some to Iraq and are getting ready to send some to California. What they want is to see where this grass can grow, test it in different areas. It went through a rigorous certification process to be a certified grass, it went through testing at the University of Florida and Oklahoma State. It takes years of researching the grass to evaluate the wear tolerance, the cold tolerance, the shade tolerance, different things. This is one grass that actually came from a golf course, they know how to maintain grass and take care of it. This grass is very special.
For More Information Click here

Differences/Advantages Container Gardening vs. In-Ground Gardening
We're talking containers because Pamela is here and because Eric loves growing in containers. There are many ADVANTAGES TO CONTAINERS, it's different than growing in ground and Eric would like to talk a little bit about that. What are some of the principle differences between container gardening and in-ground gardening? Number one, Pamela would say container gardening is easier, which is really important to people. Everybody is looking for fast and easy today. As an example, the tomatoes she had one summer were planted in containers all over her patio, her neighbor's tomatoes in the ground were dying from too much water. They literally drowned. Yet Pamela's tomatoes had huge yields.
For More Information Click here

Containers-Instant Effect
Eric has noticed in his container gardening that you really do get an INSTANT EFFECT. The plants take off in a way that they typically don't in the soil. So you really do get a lot more, a lot quicker. Pamela agrees it's good for people who don't like to wait. And we can plant very close together in containers. There's a reason for that. A container garden is usually in between a flower arrangement and a landscape plant, it's something that's meant to give beauty like a flower arrangement, but it doesn't last as long as a landscape plant does. For that reason Pamela plants the plants right next to each other in the container.
For More Information Click here

Water Requirements
Eric would like to talk about the WATER REQUIREMENTS too because if we put all those plants into a media that also drains better than the native of soil, it's going to require more water. When Pamela has a lot of containers she has them them hooked up to a drip system. It’s on a timer because she doesn't want to spend a whole lot of time watering. She would much rather spend time enjoying them. But for people who are watering their containers themselves there are a couple things that are really important. Number one, understand that containers do need a lot more water. Number two, don't automatically water them all the time. You can put your finger on the soil and see if it feels dry. If it feels moist, they're fine. Number three, when you water, water with a watering wand.
For More Information Click here

Choosing The Correct Plant
Eric comments that when they spoke earlier they discussed some of the things we need to keep in mind to be successful with containers. He would like to get a little bit deeper into container planting basics. Let's talk about some of the common mistakes that people make and what we need to do. Let's just start with CHOOSING THE CORRECT PLANT. Pamela feels it’s very important to choose the right plant for the right place. It's very important that you know the light conditions, it's also very important that you have some idea how large the plant gets. Another thing that she thinks is important is to know how long the plants can bloom. She got gerbera daisy one time thinking they would bloom all summer. They bloom for a month and stop. Oftentimes understanding where a plant is in its bloom cycle is important.
For More Information Click here

Planting
Eric would next like to talk about actually PLANTING the plant in the container. We often see scenarios where the soil will be mounted up around the stem of the plant. Of course that's not great. Pamela has noticed that people have a tendency, particularly when putting the little plant in the pot to put lots of soil around it and pile it up against that stem. And they think that's good plant care.
For More Information Click here

Fertilization
Eric would like to talk about FERTILIZATION. And this is a mistake he's made many, many times. He sees his plant looking a little chlorotic, the leaves are a little yellow. You've got to be careful not to be too heavy handed. Number one, you're going to do better with a slow release fertilizer because it lasts a lot longer than the liquids do. Find one that releases the nutrients based on time and not on water. It's also well worth investing in higher quality fertilizers. We don't have to get into all the details as to why, but there are different qualities of nitrogen. The sources of nitrogen fertilizer actually make a big difference.
For More Information Click here

Familiar With The Plant
Another thing to keep in mind when selecting the right plant for our container is - are you FAMILIAR WITH THE PLANT? Because if you're not familiar with it, what Pamela recommends is just buy one instead of buying a bunch of them. That way you'll not be disappointed. It's nice with container gardens to have some areas for display containers. And those are for plants that you know, your tried and true plants, where you can just blast out and make it gorgeous.
For More Information Click here

Simple Containers
One point that Eric really would like for our viewers to know is how SIMPLE CONTAINERS can be. With as many beautiful, complicated patterns and plant selections as Pamela has planted in containers over the years there are also as many containers that have just one beautiful hero plant in a basic container. A wonderful example of that here are these enormous alocasias that are in these really beautiful blue pots. The simplicity of just a wonderful, dynamic statement plant in a beautiful container sometimes is all we need to do. And sometimes the containers are so beautiful that the container is what you want to emphasize.
For More Information Click here

Using Vegetables In Containers
Another category of plants that Pamela uses in a lot of her container designs, something that oftentimes we don't think about using are VEGETABLES and specifically squash. They have these enormous leaves that have an almost a lush tropical kind of look to it. And we're not accustomed to seeing those in containers. In fact, when you do see an enormous, yellow crook neck squash or a zucchini that's bursting out of a container it's really fascinating.
For More Information Click here

LINKS:

Michael Carr Design
Home - Michael Carr Designs | Wholesale Pottery and Decor

Pamela Crawford
Container Garden Photos | Pamela Crawford | Landscapes

Color Choice Flowering Shrubs - Proven Winners
A Better Landscape Starts with a Better Flowering Shrub

Ball Horticultural
Ball Horticultural

Suntory Flowers
Home - Suntory Flowers

Southern Living Plant Collection
Southern Living Plants - Plants Selected For Southern Gardens

Harmony Sod
Harmony – Outdoor Living – A life of simplicity begins with Harmony

Plant List

Show #43/6604. Tips And Tricks Utilizing Containers

Transcript of Show

In this episode GardenSMART addresses one of Eric’s favorite topics - container gardening. This show is packed full of many tips you need to know to get the most out of your containers. We return to the latest garden designed by Pamela Crawford which is a fascinating study in color and textures as well designed to be a display garden for the latest container designs by artist Michael Carr. And these works of art are the first thing one sees upon entering the garden. Containers have the ability to transform the entire way we see a garden and experience the plants.

One of the finishing touches that really makes this garden sing is the LUSH SOD that frames it. The sod creates a wonderful backdrop to the vibrant colors featured in this beautiful garden. Jason Nugent from Harmony Sod joins GardenSMART to discuss the importance of selecting the right grass for your garden. Eric thanks Jason for joining us on the show. Today, we're talking about sod and Eric couldn't be more excited about it. Any chance we get to talk about sod is a great opportunity. Eric has been watching this garden develop over many, many months. There’s been so much work that's gone into this garden and one of the beautiful finishing touches that cannot be underestimated is the impact that this sod has made. The way that it has framed this amazing garden and seeing that transformation occur has been really, really exciting. When looking at sod, it's the last thing we always put down. Whether a garden or landscape it really just makes that landscape pop a whole lot, whether you have mulch or different areas sod makes your greenscape that much bigger, it just brings that landscape together and makes it look a whole lot better.

Oftentimes we think of sod as this ubiquitous green carpet, kind of this neutral thing, this green patch. But that's not true there are so many amazing cultivars and sod has come a long way in the last 20 or 30 years. True. There are varieties still out there that are 50 years old and there are varieties that are two years old. One thing they try and do at Harmony is to get the best varieties available. What does that really mean? They have an R & D facilities with different growers that are researching different grasses. Grasses that are not only better for the environment, but additionally just easier to grow for the consumer, less time mowing which means spending more time out in your yard and more time with your family.

Eric and Jason next talk about the sod that was used for this garden. It's a Bermuda. There are hundreds of cultivators, probably more, of Bermuda. This is specifically BIMINI BERMUD and was developed by Bethel Farms in Florida. And this grass is available in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and now Iraq. They just sent some to Iraq and are getting ready to send some to California. What they want is to see where this grass can grow, test it in different areas. It went through a rigorous certification process to be a certified grass, it went through testing at the University of Florida and Oklahoma State. It takes years of researching the grass to evaluate the wear tolerance, the cold tolerance, the shade tolerance, different things. This is one grass that actually came from a golf course, they know how to maintain grass and take care of it. This grass is very special. At the end of the day they took three samples from these golf courses, grew them out and tested them. In a blind study they picked out two of the varieties, grew those out, tested those then came back and picked one variety. They took one sprig and grew all of this grass being installed across the world from one sprig. Oftentimes we don't think about how important breeding components are. The development work in many ways is the heart and soul of what Harmony does. Harmony has the best growers across North America. And they have the best varieties and have branded their sod based on functionality - Harmony Home, Harmony Play and Harmony Shade. Whether in California, New York or Key West, Florida they have a region specific variety that's best for the consumer. They've taken the worry about all the thousands of cultivars of grasses off the customer, kind of simplified it for them in three categories and it's worked well. Eric is super excited to see what Jason comes out with next, he makes sod fascinating. They do try and make it as easy as possible for the consumer.

Pamela Crawford returns to the show to walk us through different aspects of container gardening and shares with us many of the tips and tricks she's learned over the decades of careful research on her 12 books. Eric is ready to dive into containers. Pamela welcome to the show, it's so good to see you again. Thank you, Eric, it's great to be back.

We're talking containers because Pamela is here and because Eric loves growing in containers. There are many ADVANTAGES TO CONTAINERS, it's different than growing in ground and Eric would like to talk a little bit about that. What are some of the principle differences between container gardening and in-ground gardening? Number one, Pamela would say container gardening is easier, which is really important to people. Everybody is looking for fast and easy today. As an example, the tomatoes she had one summer were planted in containers all over her patio, her neighbor's tomatoes in the ground were dying from too much water. They literally drowned. Yet Pamela's tomatoes had huge yields. She shows us one tomato plant that had a yield of something like 60 tomatoes. The reason is the container drains and we're able to use perfect soil which drains really well. The container she used had tons of room, the roots of the tomato plant go all the way to the base. It was just a really happy tomato. Plus it's able to do that because it has air throughout this entire collar of soil. Whereas, the tougher soils that we have in the Georgia area have clay in many cases going down 46 inches. So the root system can only get so deep and that leaves the plant vulnerable to certain stresses. So with a really, really deep root system the tomato can mine water from the entire profile. Assuming we give it enough water, the plant has got a really, really nice buffer that should keep it healthy and strong. When Pamela started growing in containers a lot of plant people said, it's not going to work, the roots are going to stay at the top. You'll have really wimpy tomatoes. Well, although this tomato plant's a little bit old it is not wimpy so what you end up with is really big production per square foot. When she's looking at 60 tomatoes in two square feet she's very happy about that. Eric agrees, that's incredible.

Eric has noticed in his container gardening that you really do get an INSTANT EFFECT. The plants take off in a way that they typically don't in the soil. So you really do get a lot more, a lot quicker. Pamela agrees it's good for people who don't like to wait. And we can plant very close together in containers. There's a reason for that. A container garden is usually in between a flower arrangement and a landscape plant, it's something that's meant to give beauty like a flower arrangement, but it doesn't last as long as a landscape plant does. For that reason Pamela plants the plants right next to each other in the container. She was really surprised when she first started because she was so educated on landscape spacing. She was surprised to find out how well they did when you planted them that close together. So you do get that instant effect, because they're planted so close together but they might not last as long, from a seasonality standpoint, as something planted in the ground because the roots are going to reach the edge of the pot. When it does that and doesn't have more room to grow at that point it's going to not be a happy plant.

Eric would like to talk about the WATER REQUIREMENTS too because if we put all those plants into a media that also drains better than the native of soil, it's going to require more water. When Pamela has a lot of containers she has them them hooked up to a drip system. It’s on a timer because she doesn't want to spend a whole lot of time watering. She would much rather spend time enjoying them. But for people who are watering their containers themselves there are a couple things that are really important. Number one, understand that containers do need a lot more water. Number two, don't automatically water them all the time. You can put your finger on the soil and see if it feels dry. If it feels moist, they're fine. Number three, when you water, water with a watering wand. What you want to be sure of is that the entire top of the soil gets watered so that it's even. There are times when you look at the soil and you see it's hard as a rock, it has pulled back from the sides, there's actually a space all the way in between. If you have a small enough pot what Pamela recommends doing is getting some kind of baking pan or something like that from your kitchen. Put several inches of water in it then put the whole container on top of that and let it slowly absorb the water from the bottom. Pamela thinks it's easier to rehydrate a really dry pot that way. Eric agrees, that's one thing with a lot of the container medias if they get too dry, they become hydrophobic where they actually start repelling water. And that's what Pamela is describing, where it pulls away from the edges. You can put the water on the top and can almost see it beading up, at that point it may take a little bit to get it fully rehydrated. There are times when we're reaching the 90 degrees, 95 degrees in the summertime and the sun's out all day long where Pamela is watering some of her smaller pots twice a day. The larger pots don't need water as often because they have such a large space to store water.

Eric comments that when they spoke earlier they discussed some of the things we need to keep in mind to be successful with containers. He would like to get a little bit deeper into container planting basics. Let's talk about some of the common mistakes that people make and what we need to do. Let's just start with CHOOSING THE CORRECT PLANT. Pamela feels it’s very important to choose the right plant for the right place. It's very important that you know the light conditions, it's also very important that you have some idea how large the plant gets. Another thing that she thinks is important is to know how long the plants can bloom. She got gerbera daisy one time thinking they would bloom all summer. They bloom for a month and stop. Oftentimes understanding where a plant is in its bloom cycle is important. For example, something like a fox glove, if you buy it, when it's in full bloom, you can't have high expectations from that plant. Two months later it's not going to produce any more flowers and that bloom might have been its one shot for two years. Google on your phone to find out information that's important that you don't know. For example, how long does this plant bloom, how tall does it get in the container, does it need sun or shade? Those would be the three real basic and important questions.

Eric would next like to talk about actually PLANTING the plant in the container. We often see scenarios where the soil will be mounted up around the stem of the plant. Of course that's not great. Pamela has noticed that people have a tendency, particularly when putting the little plant in the pot to put lots of soil around it and pile it up against that stem. And they think that's good plant care. That’s not the case, the wet soil rots the stem and the stem falls off. You actually want to keep them out of the potting mix a little bit. Pamela likes to see her plants above the soil about half an inch or so. That way she feels secure that she's not going to smother the little thing.

Eric would like to talk about FERTILIZATION. And this is a mistake he's made many, many times. He sees his plant looking a little chlorotic, the leaves are a little yellow. You've got to be careful not to be too heavy handed. Number one, you're going to do better with a slow release fertilizer because it lasts a lot longer than the liquids do. Find one that releases the nutrients based on time and not on water. It's also well worth investing in higher quality fertilizers. We don't have to get into all the details as to why, but there are different qualities of nitrogen. The sources of nitrogen fertilizer actually make a big difference. Fertilizers with mostly ammoniacal nitrogen, can actually be very toxic to a plant. That big flush of growth that you see is the plant moving that nitrogen out of its system, because it actually is slightly toxic to the plant. So if you overdo it, especially with the cheaper fertilizers that are designed for grass it's very easy to burn a plant with the cheap fertilizers. Long term fertilizer, say like six months slow release fertilizer is a lot safer.

Eric would like to circle back around to selecting the right plant and make sure that we understand the things that we need to keep in mind to ensure we have the highest probability of bringing home something that's going to be successful. One thing that is really important is regional differences. When Pamela first started writing her series of books on container gardening she traveled a good bit. She wanted to see what people were doing all over the country. Surprisingly enough she saw the same plants being used in New York, in Chicago, even in Vancouver that they were using in south Florida. But you plant them at different times. For example, most petunias do well all summer long in places like Victoria, Canada or places like New York. If planted all summer long in Georgia, they're going to burn up starting about June. They're really a spring plant or a fall plant in Georgia.

Another thing to keep in mind when selecting the right plant for our container is - are you FAMILIAR WITH THE PLANT? Because if you're not familiar with it, what Pamela recommends is just buy one instead of buying a bunch of them. That way you'll not be disappointed. It's nice with container gardens to have some areas for display containers. And those are for plants that you know, your tried and true plants, where you can just blast out and make it gorgeous. Then have just some small plants that aren't an exact focal point and that's where you have your trial gardens. Eric thinks that's a great tip. Just wait and see which ones can actually be matriculated up to the big leagues, then maybe the next year on the basis of what you learned from those smaller containers, it could instruct what we do on a larger scale.

Pamela tested petunias one year, she had a lot of different varieties. She had selected branded petunias which means the petunia has a name like supertunias. All of the branded petunias planted did beautifully. In the case of the supertunias, that's a plant that has been bred for specific additional tolerance that makes it particularly good for containers. A lot of the modern breeding programs are putting tremendous effort into plants that work well in containers, hanging baskets and so forth. That's kind of the way that they've been designed, so that's a natural choice.

One point that Eric really would like for our viewers to know is how SIMPLE CONTAINERS can be. With as many beautiful, complicated patterns and plant selections as Pamela has planted in containers over the years there are also as many containers that have just one beautiful hero plant in a basic container. A wonderful example of that here are these enormous alocasias that are in these really beautiful blue pots. The simplicity of just a wonderful, dynamic statement plant in a beautiful container sometimes is all we need to do. And sometimes the containers are so beautiful that the container is what you want to emphasize. If you take a look at one container it's actually a translucent blue, meaning that there were layers of clear glaze that are put over each other. Pamela chose these containers because they look great with the pool tile and then planted them very simply with some silver bromeliads. She believes that in this particular case if she had gone with elaborate plantings it would've detracted from the overall look.

Eric comments on another planting. It has a similar blue container with just a beautiful lime reseda. It has the same effect as the alocasias in a big bold pot. Or it can just be as simple as the contrast of chartreuse foliage against a beautiful darker color. It works. Another wonderful container combination that Eric loves to see and he knows Pamela does a lot with is succulents in containers. They can be a bold statement plant as well. And this particular bowl is big enough that it really shows up. She used three kalanchoe diversifolia in it. So then what she was looking at was dirt on top. Pamela doesn't like to see dirt on top so got some glass to use as a mulch. This is aqua glass. What she looks for is glass that's been tumbled because she doesn't want the edges to be sharp, she doesn't want to cut herself.

Another category of plants that Pamela uses in a lot of her container designs, something that oftentimes we don't think about using are VEGETABLES and specifically squash. They have these enormous leaves that have an almost a lush tropical kind of look to it. And we're not accustomed to seeing those in containers. In fact, when you do see an enormous, yellow crook neck squash or a zucchini that's bursting out of a container it's really fascinating. And that was just all learning from experiments. She had 1300 vegetables to plant one summer and had a lot of pots so she just kept trying things. What she found out was that simple vegetables in gorgeous pots make gorgeous container gardens. This squash is just amazing and it likes being in a container that big. She loves giant containers if you have the space for them. They really are more forgiving, there's a lot more that you can do. Small containers are also cool for certain spots, off the patio, et cetera. But for the squash, the reason why it's that big and robust is because it does have a nice big container to be happy in.

Eric thanks Pamela. Containers unlock so many options for the gardener and have a way of elevating a design and creating exciting focal points for visitors. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us. We had a wonderful day, we really appreciate it.

LINKS:

Michael Carr Design
Home - Michael Carr Designs | Wholesale Pottery and Decor

Pamela Crawford
Container Garden Photos | Pamela Crawford | Landscapes

Color Choice Flowering Shrubs - Proven Winners
A Better Landscape Starts with a Better Flowering Shrub

Ball Horticultural
Ball Horticultural

Suntory Flowers
Home - Suntory Flowers

Southern Living Plant Collection
Southern Living Plants - Plants Selected For Southern Gardens

Harmony Sod
Harmony – Outdoor Living – A life of simplicity begins with Harmony

Plant List

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FEATURED ARTICLE
GardenSMART Featured Article

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

Have your hanging baskets seen better days? It’s normal, by midsummer they are ready for a little TLC to bring them back to their former glory. To learn more click here for an interesting article.


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