by Sheri Silver
In last month’s article we discussed how container gardening provides the opportunity to experiment with new plants, expand your range of plant choices and have room for beautiful plants and flowers even if you live in an apartment or condo. For those who are unsure of how to begin, I’ve outlined some basic design principles and installation/maintenance tips to help ensure success (and continued gardening!).
- What to plant – Whatever the container, try to mix plants of varying heights and shapes – my containers typically include a combination of plants that are vertical (to provide a focal point), surrounded by “filler” plants with a more mounded shape and finally trailing plants to spill over the edges. Together, they create an effect that is interesting yet cohesive. When choosing a color scheme, the most fail-safe option is one that combines plants whose flowers are all the same color. If you would like to mix colors but are still tentative, try combining white, yellow and blue – this is a classic garden color scheme and always looks great.
- How many plants to buy – As containers are typically planted with seasonal annuals lasting only a few months, you want instant results – plant generously for maximum impact. When planting for clients (and myself) I always bring a list of container measurements and a measuring tape, so that I can make a mock arrangement of the plants at the nursery before purchasing.
- Installing plants – Make sure that there are drainage holes in the bottoms of your containers. Cover each hole with a piece of broken pot to allow water to drain out while keeping the soil in. Add your potting mix, selecting one designed for container use as it is lighter in weight than garden soil, providing optimal drainage. To this mix add a slow-release fertilizer and water-storing polymers (such as Soil Moist) prior to planting. Polymers absorb up to 200 times their weight in water, releasing moisture back into the soil as it dries out. Because pots and containers can dry out very quickly, polymers provide extra insurance during very hot/dry spells (read package instructions carefully prior to using). Add your plants, some more potting mix and a final layer of mulch to retain moisture, regulate soil temperature and give a neat and finished appearance.
- Maintenance – Regular watering will be your most important task – plan on daily watering, depending on the size of the pot and the weather. If possible, water early in the morning to ensure that your plants have adequate moisture as the day heats up.
As the season progresses, check on the vitality of your plants. While some plants can last from late spring till fall, others will need to be replaced mid-season. Don’t hesitate to replace plants that are looking tired and spent of blooms. By making periodic changes you can have the pleasure of beautiful pots and window boxes for up to 3 seasons.
These are only suggested guidelines. Container gardening is an ideal opportunity to take chances and experiment with new color schemes and plant combinations. Pots are relatively quick and easy to install and provide almost instant gratification (not something commonly associated with gardening!).
“tending your garden” is reprinted with the permission of River Journal Inc., 914.631.7021
© 2006 sheri silver – fiorigarden.com