23 Apr 2010


A container garden can be as simple as putting a plant in a pot, but with a little time and attention to detail it can also be a source of beauty and joy. These portable gardens can be enjoyed anywhere, whether you live in an apartment with a tiny deck, or you’re looking to add a splash of color along the walk to your front porch. A well thought out plan can provide years of pleasure; it just takes a little foresight and answering some simple questions.

Start by taking a look at the place you want your garden to call home. Is it exposed to full intense sun, or does it sit in the shade most of the day? This will be a key factor in choosing the type of plants that grace your garden. A sun loving plant such as bougainvillea will not be happy in deep shade, and a pot of violets won’t last long in the hot summer sun. Matching your plants to their proper environment will save you time, money, frustration and unsightly sick plants.

Next, you’ll want to consider the look and feel of your garden. Both the plants and containers will play a role in the design. Do you want to recreate a cottage garden filled with herbs and flowers in earthen pots? Maybe you prefer the idea of two stately well trimmed shrubs on either side of your front door in beautifully ornate planters. Whatever your plan, it’s important to remember the pot not only houses the plants but shows them off as well. A container can be just about anything that will hold soil and has proper drainage. Don’t hold yourself only to the tried and true; with a little imagination you can turn your container garden into living art.

When choosing your plants, keep in mind how much time and energy you want to put into your garden. Of course all plants require some maintenance, but some require more work than others. Faster growing plants will need to be repotted more often. Other plants shed their leaves, or drop flower petals and fruit leaving a mess to cleaned up. Annuals will need to be changed out from season to season and some perennials may need to be protected from the weather at different times of the year. Your container garden should be an enjoyment, not another chore you dread working on.

Once you have settled on your plants and their pots, you will need the proper soil.  Some plants, such as succulents, prefer coarse porous soil that drains quickly. Other, such as tropical plant, prefer soils that retain their moister. When filling your containers with your planting medium, make sure to leave two inches of space between the top of the pot and the soil for easy watering. Top dressing your plants with stones or other decorative material will add a nice finishing touch, deter weeds, and help keep the soil in place when watering.

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to watering; once again different plants have different needs. However a good rule of thumb is to feel the soil. If the top inch or so is dry it’s time to water. Keep in mind container gardens dry out faster and will need to be watered more frequently then plants in the ground. When you do water, do so until water starts to run out the bottom of the container so you know the soil has been thoroughly moistened.

Lastly you want to make sure your plants are properly fed.  Watering causes the nutrients to be flushed out of the soil over time, so regular fertilizing is a must. Whether you use a slow release granular fertilizer that’s mixed in with the soil or a liquid you add to the water, make sure you follow the instructions on the label. Over fertilizing will burn the roots and can kill the plant.

Most importantly as with all gardening project, have fun and enjoy creating your container garden. The more you enjoy it, the more others will too.

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