Gardening With Gardner: Container Gardening

Gardening With Gardner: Container Gardening

Container Gardening

Don’t have a garden, or need to add a little something to your porch or patio? Grab a pot! As long as you can provide the right amount of light, water, and soil, you can grow in a container and place your garden anywhere – from a patio to a window box or balcony.

You can get creative with the containers you choose, as long as they are big enough to support the plants when they are mature, have adequate drainage, and can hold the soil without it spilling out. Keep in mind that a smaller pot will dry out faster, requiring more frequent watering. Unglazed clay or terra cotta pots and other porous containers also allow additional evaporation through their sides. I have seen planting in old boots hung on a wall, and even in wooden chairs that lost their seats long ago (just add in a coco liner for a hanging basket or something similar).

You can achieve a well-balanced container by remembering this rhyme: “Thrill – Fill – Spill.”

Compose your design by placing a tall or focal item in the center or back, surrounded by filler items, and accented by something that will vine or drape down over the side of the pot.

When selecting plants, make sure the items you’d like to plant together have similar water and sunlight requirements. Check on your containers frequently, especially if they are in full sun. They may need watering twice a day during hot or dry spells.

If you’re wondering where to start, browse your local garden center. Look for inspiration in already-prepared hanging baskets and containers. Some nurseries will even group plants that would do well together to create displays. You aren’t limited to flowers, either! Mix in herbs to add interest, or create a kitchen garden right on your deck or windowsill. Below are just a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing.

Container Friendly Veggies

  • Greens (like lettuce, spinach, or kale): These do best with a little bit of shade, especially in the afternoon.
  • Carrots: Be sure to choose a pot deep enough for the variety you select.
  • Radishes: These mature quickly and their small size makes them easy to tuck into a container.
  • Tomatoes: Make sure to provide support, like a stake or cage, and look for container-friendly “patio” or “bush” varieties. Try to select a large pot; even a 5-gallon pail with a few drainage holes will work.
  • Beans and Peas: You can select bush varieties, but could also grow the vining type if you add a trellis or pole (or even an upside-down tomato cage).
  • Try creating an herb combination planter. Rosemary, sage, and thyme all like full sun and don’t need a lot of water or fertilizer, so they would do well together. You could create a “sauce garden” with a tomato plant, basil, and oregano.

Flowers and Foliage 

Check the mature size of the plant – make sure your container can support them.

  • Spring bulb lasagna: layer bulbs for interest: daffodils on the bottom, then tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses.
  • Sun: There are many plants that work well in sunny containers; here are just a few ideas. Choose from thrillers like a spike plant (dracaena), angelonia, or tall salvia. Add in some fillers like bright geraniums or snowy euphorbia. Finish the combination with spillers like verbena, lobelia, bacopa, million bells, or fan flower (scaevola).
  • For part sun/part shade, I recently combined a large coleus (check for those that can tolerate some sun with a pop of color from sunpatiens, and a spill effect from sweet potato vine. Perennials like coral bells and creeping jenny would work well here, too, and a licorice plant could add silvery trailing foliage.
  • In the shade, add a focal point like an upright fuchsia, caladium, or coleus. Fill in with torenia, euphorbia, or fiber optic grass. Then drape the edge of the container with a sweet potato vine or “silver falls” dichondra.
  • Succulent garden: If you have a sun-drenched deck, try a succulent garden. These plants naturally like very well drained soil and tolerate drought. Combine a few plants with different textures – like a “hens and chicks” plant with a trailing sedum – and bring some low-maintenance greenery to your picnic table.