Container gardens allow for creativity and versatility no matter what your gardening conditions are like. Here are some advantages to starting a container garden of your own.
Container gardening has many uses. If you are new to gardening, it is a good way to get started. I’ve seen many new gardeners turn over a big plot in the back yard, then get overwhelmed and give it up. Planting a few containers will get your hands in the dirt, so to speak, and you can experience the joys of gardening before you think it’s too much work. Start small.
If you are busy with work and family, containers allow you to grow food, herbs and flowers without having to find free time to maintain a large garden.
If your yard has spots of sun and shade, plants in containers can be placed where they get the conditions they need. This goes for temperature, too. I put my tomato plants in large pots that go in the warmest part of the yard where there is plenty of sun and no wind.
Because containers are portable, you can move them around to dress up the patio for a special occasion. If you have space and sun to grow inside, they can come in for winter and continue to provide food and beauty. There is nothing like fresh greenery in the dead of winter!
Containers and soil
Use your imagination when deciding on and shopping for containers. As long as they hold soil and let water drain out the bottom, they’ll work. The obvious places to look are nurseries and hardware stores, especially if want several of the same type for continuity and a sophisticated look.
For an eclectic, shabby chic or cottage garden feel, scout yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets for unique pots and anything you can turn into one. Drill or cut a few holes in the bottom, and you have drainage.
Use good potting soil. It needs to (paradoxically) hold water and let water drain out. Buy small bags of different brands to try them before investing a lot of money. Ask friends for recommendations, too. Be sure the soil is right for the plants you are using. If you are making a succulent container planting, you’ll need a sandier soil than that used for flowers.
If you are adventurous, you can make your own. The basic recipe is equal parts of topsoil, compost and sand or vermiculite. Here are several more potting soil recipes from Organic Gardening Magazine.
Designing with plants
This is the fun part! Just as in any garden, you want to consider color, texture, height and shape. If you’re using perennials, you’ll need to know when they bloom. Groupings should have the same light and water requirements so they all flourish.
From a succulent in a teacup to a evergreens in urns, anything goes. Here are a few ideas.
HGTV suggests ‘a thriller, a spiller, and a filler’. Border plants complement a dramatic focal point. These are beautiful!
Tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, basil, and garlic chives grow well together in a livestock trough or any large container. Many nurseries and seed companies now carry dwarf varieties of vegetables, herbs and flowers bred specifically for container growing.
A grouping of succulents is a low maintenance garden. The various textures create visual interest.
Herbs are particularly well suited to containers.
Three large pots with the same plants in them create a dramatic entryway.
Plant several containers and cluster them together for variety. This has unlimited possibilities. Each container and its plantings can be different. One can be all blue, one all warm colors, one just foliage, one full of herbs, and so on. This is where you can really let your imagination fly!
Start small, think big
My first plant was a coleus. In winter, it was in a bright west window. In summer, it went out on the shady porch. I watched the colors change with different lighting. I watched it bush and flower blue in late summer.
Today I have a shed full of containers waiting for a new season. I experiment with them every year, and many come in for winter. I try to play with unusual plants, and I also grow tomatoes, peppers and herbs in them.
Container gardening lets me be as inventive as I feel like being. It’s the one area of my yard that changes every year, and it’s never boring!
See my container gardening Pinterest board for inspiration on plants and containers. Most of all, have fun! And as always, garden organically.