Quick Container Gardening
Create easy-care seasonal color for any outdoor space
Outdoor living is a popular aspect of many homes, whether theres a lot of landscaping to roam around in or a petite patio extending the space of an urban apartment. Impressive plantings are key to the scene, but how do you keep them looking lush and still have time to enjoy the view?
Container gardening is a solution you can enjoy with minimal maintenance. By following a few common-sense steps and mixing in some design fun, beautiful blooms, a bit of green and even a vegetable or two can adorn any outdoor room. This mobile landscape can also be moved with the seasons from outside in, to deliver beauty year-round.
Heres where to begin:
The Space and the Place
Container gardens are great for any space, whether serving as key focal points in a large yard or dressing up a small seating area. For the best, most predictably low-maintenance results, assess the spaces and places where youd like your containers to be. That means tracking the typical pattern of sun and shade throughout the day, which impacts selection of plants and container materials, and looking to the surrounding plantings to determine colors and textures that will add either the pop or subtlety you desire. Also consider the container size thats appropriate for the space: scale can vary, but your selection should fall in the plant-friendly zone of 15 to 120 quarts in capacity.
The containers you choose end up being accessories in the decoration of your outdoor room, so look for styles that will complement your homes architecture as well as elements like patio pavers, decking design, fencing and furnishings. Container materials can also impact the look and longevity of your gardening endeavors, so think back to their destined environment. In relentless sunlight, for example, inexpensive plastic pots can fade and deteriorate, and terra cotta pots can dry out quickly; in damp areas, wooden containers are extra-susceptible to rot. In every case, select containers with wide openings for easy, impactful planting and dependable drainage systems (even if you have to drill the drainage holes yourself). Also invest in saucers, blocks, risers or rolling platforms to encourage drainage and help protect surfaces.
Container gardening is a great way to experiment with garden design, and pretty much anything goes when it comes to mixing colors and textures. Just make sure all of the plants you plan to place together have similar sun, shade and watering needs, and test out different combinations either on paper before you shop or in the midst of garden glory at the nursery. You can also build in variety by mixing perennials with annuals, substituting new versions of the latter as each season begins.
Get a Great Start
Besides great exterior conditions, your new plantings will need the perfect medium inside their container in order to thrive. Manufacturers like Sta-Green offers lines of products designed to provide container gardens with the very special balance of moisture, nutrients and oxygen they require. Moisture Max Potting Mix helps to retain that critical moisture level within the container garden environment, and Premium Container Mix with Fertilizer is a great choice if youre looking to encourage beautiful blooms and lush foliage.
To plant, fill your container about ¾ full with the selected potting soil, and position plantings beginning with the central and most dominant one in the bunch. Once plants are in place, pack additional potting mix between the root balls, maintaining a two-inch-high space between the soil surface and the containers rim. From there, water thoroughly and keep tabs on the containers moisture level, giving plantings a generous drink before the soil has a chance to dry out.
Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's website.