Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
June, 2001
Regional Report

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Petunias and impatiens in complimentary colors make a pleasing statement in this container.

Container Gardening

If you're a plant collector, like I am, eventually you're bound to run out of room in your garden. You can always break new ground, but when bed space is at a premium, I turn to containers. Once you have the structure of a garden with its paths, beds, borders, trees, and shrubs, you can still add some focal points with containers. Decorative containers can also be arranged to provide a flowery look to your courtyard, terrace, patio, or porch.

Container Rules

There are three basic steps to successful container gardening. First, provide your plants with a suitable environment. This usually means a large container filled with well-draining growing medium. Plant closely within the containers, and, finally, give the plants regular watering and fertilizing.

Container Sizes

Just about any plant can be grown in a container, from flowering annuals to small trees. The bigger the plant, the bigger the pot needs to be. Try to keep the pot and plant in proportion. A small plant in a big pot looks just as funny as a huge plant in a small pot. As the plants grow, transplant them into larger pots.

The Right Container

Containers come in a variety of styles and materials. After you've selected the appropriate container, drill a few drainage holes in the bottom if there aren't any already. Cover the holes with gravel or pieces of broken terra-cotta to retard soil loss when watering. In large containers, place a layer of several empty, capped soft drink bottles in the bottom to reduce the amount of soil needed and to make the pot lighter.

The Best Soil

Packaged potting soils have just the right balance of aeration and moisture-holding capacity for ideal root growth. Don't use garden soil. It rarely drains properly, can be very heavy when wet, and may harbor plant diseases.

Water Frequently

Plants growing in containers dry out faster than those in the ground and will need more frequent watering. To test soil moisture levels, stick your finger into the top few inches of soil to see if it's dry. A dry pot will also feel lighter when picked up or tilted on its side. If dry, thoroughly soak the soil with water.

Fertilize Often

The frequent watering required to keep potted plants healthy leaches nutrients out of the soil. To compensate, fertilize twice a month during the growing season with a half-strength dilution of liquid fertilizer.

Final Design Tip

Plant containers in groups. A group of containers is often more engaging than one lone pot. And when that special occasion arises and you want to spruce up your entry to welcome guests, your containers will be ready to provide just the right touch.

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