Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
May, 2004
Regional Report

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Potato vine, vinca, and springeri fern are all durable and attractive fillers for containers.

Instant Gardens: The Beauty of Container Gardening

You don't have to retire your green thumb just because you have a limited area for gardening. Planting in containers allows you to have an abundance of flowers and many kinds of vegetables and herbs, wherever you want.

Growing in containers offers many advantages. Container gardens require minimal weeding, they can be placed close to a water source, and they can be located at comfortable heights that minimize bending down or kneeling for tending.

The beauty of container gardening is that you can grow many kinds of different plants with different needs, side by side. Just a few terra cotta pots planted with succulents, such as sedums, ice plant, and hens and chicks, create a serene, desert setting. Plus, they're easy to care for.

Choose a container that gives plant roots room to grow, but not so much room that the plants don't fill out the container. The foliage of different plants should touch to provide shade for the soil and help retain soil moisture and keep weeds from gaining an upper hand. Be sure there is drainage at the sides or bottom of the container. Container-grown plants will not tolerate soggy feet.

Don't be tempted to dig up ordinary garden soil and put it in your containers. Use a prepared potting mixture for container gardening. It is generally formulated to provide better drainage and aeration. Compost-based soil mixes also contain nutrients to help the plants grow. Use waterproof drainage saucers beneath pots to prevent stains on patio floors, outdoor carpets, and decks.

Reducing Watering
If you are worried about watering containers frequently to keep plants alive, add water-absorbing soil amendments. These polymers are very effective in potting mixtures for increasing the soil's water-holding capacity. When hydrated, the granules look like chunks of gelatin about 1/2 inch in diameter. Read and follow label directions for the specific polymer that you select.

Unique Containers
Use several sizes of containers for an interesting arrangement against a wall or along a pathway. Container gardens can flourish in the most whimsical holders, such as an old bathtub filled with bright and cheery alpine poppies and the bold colors of marigolds.

Half whiskey barrels, cast-iron urns, and old stone sinks are all large enough to hold a variety of flowers and vegetables. Old coal ash buckets and watering cans will make colorful planters, and they're just the right size for smaller plants like herbs. Group several together right outside your kitchen door for a portable, fresh, herb garden.

Provide Supports
For taller growing plants including tomatoes, dahlias, gladiolus; and vining cucumbers, morning glories, and thunbergia, place stake supports or a trellis into the container when you first plant the transplants. This prevents damaging the root system by adding supports later in the growing season.

Container gardens can create potted pleasures of charming color and fragrance all through your landscape.

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