The Q&A Archives: outdoor container gardening

Question: I have just movied to Cary, NC from Boston and have a very small lot of land. For the first time in my life, I plan to start a little garden. I think I might start with large containers, some of herbs and some flowers, just in case gardening is not for me. Would you give my suggestions on the soil, herbs, flowers, bulbs and how to care. Believe me when I say I have never done this before. I am quite excited, but want to sstart small. Any help you give me will be greatly appreciated.
Thank you
Kathleen Dunn

Answer: Gardening in containers is actually easier than gardening in the ground! You don't have to worry about weeds popping up everywhere and you can control how much water and fertilizer your plants get. Plus, you can move the containers around to give the plants the shelter or the sun they need during different seasons.

Start by choosing containers with adequate drainage holes in the bottoms. Decorative pots are attractive but they often do not have drainage holes. So, if you find a pot you like but it has no drainage holes you can still use it but you won't want to plant directly in it. Instead, plant in a suitable nursery pot and sink it into the decorative pot, taking it out each time you water so the water can drain and not keep the roots soggy wet.

Plan to fill the pots with potting soil rather than garden soil. You can purchase in bulk or in bags, depending upon how many pots you have to fill.

Plants in containers tend to dry out faster than the same plants in the ground so pay careful attention to your plant's water needs. One final concern- the roots of your plants will be exposed to extremes in temperatures because they will be above ground. They can overheat in the summer and freeze solid in the winter.

As for plants, choose what you like best. Annuals will grow for a single season; perennials will grow for 3 or more years. I like to use a combination of annuals and perennials, changing the annuals as the seasons change. For instance, pansies look nice in the spring and winter months, lobelia looks nice in the summertime.

Hope this information at least gets you started with your new garden. Enjoy!

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