Gardening in containers is the perfect answer for apartment balconies, small condo spaces, a way it add colour and texture in those difficult spaces to plant, a way to set a theme or create an interest in an area.
First of all, choose the container, making sure it is sturdy and has drainage holes. Clay pots work well as they provide excellent drainage and allow air movement through the pot. Other suggestions – plastic, metal and glazed containers, barrels, baskets and you can even recycle old shoes. If you choose a fancier or ornate container your plant choices should be simpler but in harmony with your container
Now the plants! Choose the proper plants for the container and for the exposure (sun/shade). In choosing these plants, there is a basic recipe for your container:
A thriller – a tall plant to catch your attention, such as a spike, grass, annual, etc
A filler – plants to be planted around your focal/interest plant
A spiller – plants to drape over the sides of your container.
Use flowers and foliages with contrasting shapes, colour & textures. Use 1/3 more foliage plants to set off the colour of your main flowers.
The proper growing media should be used. Don’t use garden soil as it will be to heavy for your container and get too compact, resulting in poor drainage and aeration. Always use new soil each season to reduce disease and pest problems. I use 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 compost or bagged manure. This recipe helps keep moisture and has better nutrient valve but you still have to fertilize.
Before planting your containers, water your containers well first about an hour before planting. This will get rid of the air spaces and your plants will be easier to plant. Space your plants closely together and using the thriller, filler & spiller recipe. For plants that you want to trail over the sides, plant them on a slight angle. Water well.
How much you water your container will depend on the size and type of your container, the plant specimens and weather conditions. When you choose your plants make sure that the ones you choose for your container need the same water requirements. For instance, even though New Guinea Impatiens & tuberous begonias both need shade, the impatiens need far more water than begonias. Good rule of thumb is if your container is light, water it!
Plants grown in containers need food. Fertilizing your containers is important because there are a lot of plants in such a small place and frequent watering will leach out the fertilizers through the soil mix. Soluble fertilizers should be applied weekly when watering and also slow release fertilizers can be used.
Maintenance for your container gardeners is so much easier than a garden. Remove dead blooms and if a plant is getting too leggy, pinch it back to branch out and it will bloom. Also be on the look out for any pests and diseases, which can be easily removed.
Container gardening is an easy way to great for creating a focal point in a garden or patio. Also a great way to introduce children to plants & gardening and a way to grow vegetables and herbs at your finger tips. Good luck and enjoy this concept of gardening.
Nancy Abra, London Middlesex Master Gardeners