by Carol Siddall, Master Gardener
Moving into a garden home or patio home, but you still like to garden? You still can - CONTAINER GARDENING is the answer. More and more people are turning to container gardening because of reduced yard space, but also because it is easier to garden with containers as we get older. Not having to bend and dig in a flower or vegetable garden is a welcome relief when it hurts to do so!
Before you begin you need to decide what type of container you want. You can use anything from an old tin bucket to a beautiful ceramic piece. The sky is the limit. Children have planted vegetables in an old tire, which teaches recycling. If growing vegetables, you will need lots of sun, also true for roses (yes they can be grown in containers if they will not grow over around 4' tall), and sun loving flowers like geraniums, petunias, verbenas, zinnias, and alyssum. If you have mostly shade, your container needs to have plants like coleus, caladiums, impatiens, some ferns, or veggies like Swiss Chard. Succulents are beautiful in a container, hanging or on the ground. Fall is a great time to plant one of pansies, stock, and snapdragons.
After you have chosen your container, decide on sun or shade plants, then where you will place your container. The next thing is fill your container. If you have a very large container, you may want to use something on the bottom like Styrofoam peanuts (ones not biodegradable) or pine cones. This will help take up room and not add much weight. You MUST have drainage holes! Water needs to be able to escape or your plants may rot. Small pebbles or rocks are good for the bottom also, and they will help with drainage. Next comes your soil. Any type of soil media needs to be well drained, but yet retain enough moisture for good plant growth. Bagged medias (potting soil) are easier to use. I use garden soil mixed with compost, but that is my choice. Pre-moisten soil, then fill the container to about an inch from the top of the container. This space (head space) provides a place to put water and have it soak down into the container and not just run off.
Now the fun part! Choose your plants, veggies or flowers. Then choose color, height on maturity, trailing plants, and or succulents. Remember, your container may be viewed from all sides, so plant with that in mind. If you want instant fullness, you will have to plant more plants. If you are patient, you can use less plants. After planting, water thoroughly, and make sure your drain holes are working.
REMEMBER - container plants need water almost every day, especially in the heat of summer. Collect that rain water - they love it! Nothing lasts forever. Plants in containers will need to be fertilized, dead headed, possibly trimmed, and replaced.