The ease of planting and caring for a small, ‘contained’ garden (Google / Cashman Nursery)

Read at : Google Alert – container gardening

http://www.cashmannursery.com/gardening-tips/2011/container-gardening/

Container Gardening

Everyone is gardening in containers these days. Small lots and condo living contribute to this trend. People want the ease of planting and caring for a small, ‘contained’ garden. Homeowners are interested in decorating not just the inside of their homes, but also their outdoor living space. Enticing to us gardeners are the beautiful, colorful clay containers being imported from all over the world.

Container gardening has come a long way from a whiskey barrel filled with red geraniums. Beautiful clay pottery is available in all colors, sizes and price ranges from Italy, Vietnam, and Mexico. This year, with the popularity of warm, bright-colored flowers, bright-colored pots are also in vogue. I love the new citrus-colored pots, but I am still partial to simple terra cotta pots with their classic lines. Any plant, any color, will look at home planted in a terra cotta pot.

If it will hold dirt, it will probably hold flowers. I created a funky grouping of plants on my front steps planted in antique tin-ware using an old chair long stripped of its paint to hold one of the tins. Plant in a western hat or boot, hollowed out tree trunk, old worn pail, basket, or old suitcase lined with plastic—all you need are soil and drainage holes. When choosing a container remember, larger pots allow more room for root growth and are easier to keep watered.

Use a commercial potting mix, not soil from the garden, in your containers. Garden soil is too heavy, plus it might contain fungi or insect larvae. A potting mix that is lightened with perlite or vermiculite is good. If the mix contains coconut fiber, even better. Coconut fiber has great water holding capacity. Your container should have holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain. Use pebbles, or better yet, light styrafoam peanuts, in the bottom of any deep or large container for better drainage.

Due to our low humidity here in the summer, containers need to be watered daily, especially if they are in full sun. We like to mix Soil Moist granules into our potting soil to reduce waterings. Soil Moist is a polymer that absorbs water like a sponge. As the soil dries out, the stored water is released.

Mix slow release Osmocote fertilize into the soil of your containers and you won’t have to fertilize again. Or fertilize with water-soluble Miracle-Gro every ten days.

Choosing plants for your container garden is the fun part, but first you need to know whether your container will be in full sun or partial or full shade. There is a huge selection of plants for any location. Containers can look stunning planted with just one variety of plant but the trend is to use a mixture of plants that compliment each other. Commonly we plant a tall plant in the middle of the pot, with gradually shorter plants toward the edge that will trail over the side of the pot. New and exciting annual grasses such as ornamental corn or millet can be used to give your container-garden height, instead of the over-used spike (dracaena). Two fun and unusual annual grasses that work well in containers are Mexican feather grass which looks and feels like soft green hair and fiber optic grass that looks like fiber optics!

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.