Spring is here at last but this year my garden will have to be self-sufficient. I will be having surgery on my spine, where the nerves have been causing pain in my right leg and keeping me from being able to do what I love to do. Bulbs will come up without my help, as will perennials. Weeds will surely come up as well. Whatever can I do!
I’ve been giving the problem a lot of thought and have decided that container gardening is the perfect solution for this temporarily disabled person. Besides filling some large containers that I have on the deck with cherry tomatoes, jalapeño peppers and herbs, small pots can be placed between the perennials to smother the weeds, cover the brown leaves of the bulbs as they finish blooming, and add color wherever it’s needed. Seeds, planted now in peat pots indoors, can be moved into larger containers as the weather warms, without disturbing the roots.
Annual vines like morning glories and moonflowers are a good combination in a large container, placed to climb on a trellis or to hide an unsightly drainpipe. Morning glories open with the first bright sunshine and the moonflowers open as the afternoon wanes. For a short time, the two vines mingle and the heavenly blue of the one mixes with the white brightness of the other. When the sun sets, the moonflowers will show up in the black of night.
Place heavy containers on plant dollies or castors for mobility, small plastic pots inside large containers can be changed when the flowers finish blooming.
If reusing a pot, wash it with a dilution of 10 parts water and 1 part bleach to kill any bacteria left behind, and use new sterile growing medium. Pots should be elevated off the ground or other surface so that air circulates and water drains away. A few rocks placed under a large pot will accomplish this, as well as an upside-down flowerpot or saucer… anything to keep it from being flush against the surface.
The biggest disadvantage of container gardening is that plants dry out much faster than those planted in the ground. One way to increase water retention is to include polymers in the planting medium. Mulching also helps to retain moisture. Over-watering is another hazard. Be sure the pot has a hole for drainage and don’t water if the soil is wet below the surface. If you are unable to make a hole in the pot you want to use, place a smaller pot inside of it or fill the bottom with 2″ of gravel, shells or broken pottery before adding soil. This will provide a place for the water to drain and keep the roots from drowning.
- Water the containers with a fine spray so roots are not disturbed.
- Container-grown plants need regular liquid fertilizing. Follow the directions on the package carefully and do not over-fertilize.
- Deadhead regularly to produce more flowers. Pinching back to the first node keeps the plant from becoming leggy.
An advantage to container-grown plants is that you can move them indoors when the weather gets cool, just as houseplants are able to be moved outdoors as the weather begins to warm.
There is a wealth of information on container gardening at our library. I’ve only tapped the surface, but isn’t it exciting!