If your home or your schedule can't accommodate a large garden, container gardening may be for you.
Pots are portable so you can rearrange them as often as you do your furniture. Container gardens are perfect for renters whose own roots are not firmly planted. Those who live in colder climes can grow tender plants all summer and winter them inside. And, for some of us, it's just plain fun.
There's a wide selection of plants and containers from which to choose, and choosing may be the toughest part.
Here are some suggestions for selecting what's best for you.
First, consider your site(s)
Second, seek inspiration
Third, choose a look
Fourth, use care in selecting containers
- Containers can be nearly anything -- from rusted teapots to marble urns.
- Clay pots are beautiful and terrific for plants with roots that prefer not to be continually damp. But if your container will be where it's hot and dry, be prepared to water at least once, if not twice, a day. Even in central coastal Maine, I put clay pots in partial shade or partially submerge them in the ground.
- Plastic pots with attached drainage dishes are inexpensive and practical, but sometimes aesthetically less pleasing. Try setting your plastic pots inside larger decorative containers for the advantages of both.
- After being on the market a few years, the foam resin and other composite planters have improved. They are getting better looking and more affordable, and are durable and lightweight.
- If you're planning to periodically rearrange your containers, keep in mind the combined weight of the pot, soil, plant and water. Consider setting your large containers on wheels.
Fifth, know the plants' growth habits and horticultural requirements.
- Read the tags attached to the plants or inserted in the soil.
- Don't by shy about asking the nursery sales staff. If they can't advise you about the plants they sell, buy from a business that can.
- Does the plant grow tall or wide? Does it flower all summer or have one big blooming period? Does it prefer sun or shade, need good drainage or soggy feet? Is it a heavy feeder requiring regular fertilizer? Is it an aggressive root grower that will fill the pot, or a slow spreader that plays well with other plants?
- Use a good quality potting soil. That doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive soil. But you'll need a growing medium that drains well, yet retains enough moisture so the water doesn't run straight through.
Sixth, take advantage of watering technology.
Lastly, enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Have fun, get creative, and you'll learn and enjoy all season long. And if your containers don't look quite as you planned?there's always next year.
J. B. McGowan is an avid gardener whose midcoast Maine perennial gardens have been featured in local publications and on house and garden tours.
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