Container Gardening- Planning for Success
Why grow containers?
Depending on your level of gardening, and the time you have, growing Containers can be really easy, and a great place to begin without a lot of space. Advanced gardeners will benefit from the four seasons of "potential" listed below. Some growers will want to start their own seeds, and grow vegetable transplants. If it is your first time, it is best to start with the summer transplants this year, then expand across the seasons. There is no right or wrong way to grow containers. The best way is to start with purchasing plants/colors you like! Containers are a great way to add drama on your doorstep or the back deck. A bit of planning, shopping and regular watering is all you need to get started- It is so easy even your Kids can help!
This article covers a range of growing and design topics, so it is best to read it through the three topics- Containers, Gardening and Design Tips, and the logistics.
Seedlings in the Greenhouse- Where it all begins each Spring-
What container do I use?
All sorts of different things can be used as a planter, as long as they have a hole for drainage. I feel it is worthwhile to invest in some nice planters because it is an easy way to make your front step beautiful. Larger ones add greater impact and dry out slower then smaller pots, but will require more muscle, plants and soil. Look for large pots on sale at the end of the season at garden centers/nurseries.
Pots made from cast iron, window boxes, hyper tufa, plastic, bamboo, terra cotta etc, are all available
make your from wood apple boxes, baskets, rubber boots (use plastic liners if you can, and add drain holes as necessary.)
Make sure your pots are also easy enough to carry or move (Terra cotta and concrete/ceramic ones need to be emptied and brought in out of the freeze/thaw cycle to not break.)
Good container gardening needs good soil. Buy a bag of peat/growers mix, and add in some sheep/cow etc manure (between 1/4 to 1/3 of the total soil) Soil from your dirt pile can be free, but it is usually too heavy for great growing conditions. Getting too overzealous with the manure can be bad for your plants. Invest now in your soil, and you'll only need to refresh it with more organic matter in the coming years.
Fertilizer is what gives blooms a great start. Water soluble fertilizer is usually used once a week, in the beginning, or every two weeks later on- follow the directions on the pack. Plants don't need a lot, but a little gives them a kick. If you planted perennials- they don't require the same fertilizer, as long as you have some good soil. Add some granular perennial fertilizer once or twice a year, (early before the bloom season, and once the plant is done blooming)
Watering and Finding the Time
Some containers are a lot more work then others. Simply by moving a container to reach rainfall it can be pretty self sufficient, compared to a hanging basket on a porch- some plants will also wither out after a season (annual herbs tend to do this- grow quickly- bolt quickly, brown quickly) and beg to be replanted with others, or need to be deadheaded, Etc. Vote for easy growing flowers or foliage if you lack time.
For the most part, it is the watering that is the greatest need. If you lack time, put containers where they can get it on their own (and use larger pots). It is best to be in the habit of checking out their dryness daily. On a sunny porch, pots can dry out daily and require lots of attention.
Impatiens are great for part shade- decorate with gourds during harvest season
How much sun is there?
This is good to note, because it will help you decide what plants you can grow. Almost any plant will grow if there is a half day's sun (6 hours) Less then that, and your choices are limited with less selection or less blooms per plant- but you can still grow things! A full day of sun gives the most optimum inventory, except that things can dry out a lot easier.
Look for some of these elements to add to your containers, for a easy visual impact.
Tall grasses- spiky Dracaena grass, purple millet, add height and a lush feeling.
Succulents- Interesting, and an excellent texture- most are not cold hardy- bring them inside in the winter
Textures- Look for a mix of textures- fluffy, soft, spiky, foliage or flowers. Like ferns, sweet potato vine, succulents.
Weeping plants or Creeping vines- the Dichondra's 'waterfalls' are popular, or sweet potato vines add drama by growing down over the pot lids towards the ground. Some petunias do this also.
Color- the easiest way to add drama is to look for interesting color variations- Dark colors like reds, yellow, and striped greens and whites. Coleus is a powerhouse foliage that comes in an amazing array of variations. Flowers may not be in flower all the time (unless you have petunias, begonias, inpatients) so it is good to have some colorful foliage as a back up.
So you have begun to get an idea of what to look for when you go shopping, but What do I buy?
This listing is done by the seasons, as any gardener knows how nice it is to extend into the other seasons. But it doesn't all need to be plants! Use your creativity to heighten the impact with things you love.
Sprigs of curly willow, pussy willow
Pansies or violas make for a great Spring plant, and come in a wide variety of colors
spring bulbs (planted in fall- and overwintered) like crocus, tulips, daffodils etc.
Lettuce transplants or fast growing herbs- dill, cilantro
I've seen bare tree branches plunked in and hung with Easter eggs for a sweet spring look.
Herbs are great for container gardening too!
Most summer containers get transplanted in around May 21st, but check the weather nightly to make sure there is no frost until June 1st.
The summer is the best time since there is so much to choose from! Look for re-blooming flowers to keep your pots looking good
Annuals- Saliva, Petunias, Impatiens, Begonias, Zinnia's, Sunflowers- there is so many!!
Foliage- ornamental millet, coleus etc
Perennials- herbs like lavender, sage, rosemary, or Hosta's are a nice foliage plant.
Annual Herbs- basil is a favorite with a wide range of color and taste. Pluck leaves as needed
Veggies like Swiss chard, kale reproduce over the season. Lettuce, small carrots, radish can be direct seeded and done by kids.
Shade Lovers: impatiens, begonias, foliage
When planning out an overall design, for your steps, it is best to do pots of one thing, in multiples (like 5 small pots of pansies)
Or a larger pot with a combination of flowers, foliage and texture-using height or draping greens can add impact also.
Ornamental kale is most popular, as it clings to life when little else does, and potted chrysanthemums.
Marigolds and Calendula also hold for a few frosts, as well as annual Gloriosa daisy (black eyed Susan) Most summer things will probably start to lose their luster by mid September.
Add some mini pumpkins or gourds to fill in the bare spots, or interesting squash and pumpkins
I like this time of year as much as any other season, and keep mine like this till Mid March.
Forage or buy from the Farmer's Market:
Tall things- dogwood, curly willow
Greenery- boughs of pine, fir, cedar etc
Natural elements from the garden- holly, dried teasel, hydrangea, pine cones glued on sticks
and yes, you can a bit of color with baubles and glitz, like large Christmas balls or matching bows.
It is best to keep the dirt in there to keep the stems secured in the planter.
If you are keeping your container's outside, why not plant some spring bulbs too?
|Decorating with seasonal greens- Easy and Fabulous|
Where to buy?
I am a garden nursery junkie- especially in the Annapolis Valley. One stop shopping- especially if you are looking for interesting containers, soil, unique plants and some colorful options and helpful advice.
Big box stores usually have seasonal garden centers (we all know this) and can be good for getting some supplies. But, I find that there is not a vast variety in each plant like you would find at a nursery. The box stores have the popular sellers, while a good nursery would have more colors and a lot more interesting plant varieties to choose from. A good nursery should also have some helpful advice, since this is their passion too, and can help you choose what it good for your needs!
In the Valley- I am spoiled by the amount of nurseries and garden centers
Blomidon Nurseries, Glad Gardens, Scotian Gold has a good selection to name a few.
In Halifax area:
Check out the farmer's market, Halifax Seed, Atlantic Gardens (Sackville, Bedford)
If you have a favourite one- let me know- I'm not totally familiar with all the City ones.
Transplants- Nothing is more cheerful then seeing these when it is time to get planting!
What about the farmers market?
Find herbs, veggie transplants and some flower transplants at most farmers markets- us included!
Historic Farmers Market- Saturday's 7am-1pm, 1496 Lower Water Street. The transplant season is the busiest May 17th ( the long weekend) to about June 15th. In fact, you can check out all the plants I have available by clicking above on the Veggie and Flower listings, respectively.
Let me know how your container gardening went by sending your pics to email@example.com
Thank you and happy growing!
Humble Burdock Farms
Cultivating Beauty - Celebrating Seasonality