Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2008
Regional Report

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These narrowleaf zinnias look great spilling out of an old wheelbarrow.

Gardening to Go

Looking for a creative way to beautify the landscape or to increase the space available for vegetable or flower gardening? Create a "garden to go." I'm talking about a mobile garden that you can move wherever you wish to add beauty and increase your planting options. One great way to accomplish this is with a wheelbarrow planter.

Gardeners with a site that is mostly shady may find it difficult to grow vegetables or flowers. Perhaps the one sunny spot is not where you necessarily want to put a flower bed or vegetable patch. A wheelbarrow makes a great mobile planter. I've taken a couple of old wheelbarrows and converted them into mobile planters. One was a metal one that was too rusty to use for normal hauling, and another plastic model had a large crack in the bottom.

If you don't have a spare wheelbarrow, you can probably find one for little expense at a garage sale or purchase one for the purpose of making a planter. Wheelbarrows hold a lot of growing medium, making for a very versatile planter.

I have one wheelbarrow for vegetables and another for flowers, but there's no reason you can't combine them or add herbs, too, for that matter. Just plant trailing plants around the sides and taller, bushier plants in the center.

Your mobile planter can be designed for shady spots or full sun. I know gardeners whose only sunny spot is along their driveway. It's easy to roll the wheelbarrow out for a day in the sun. Or you can move it to provide morning sun and late-day shade, depending on the needs of your plants. When one plant starts looking spent, you can replace it with a new one or revamp the entire planting.

Caring for a Wheelbarrow Garden
Drainage is critical. Make sure there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom and, if not, drill a few extras using a 1/2-inch bit. Then fill the wheelbarrow with potting soil, firming the soil a bit as you go. Stop filling about an inch or two from the top so that the sides of the wheelbarrow will prevent runoff when you water.

Watering and fertilizing are very important. While the wheelbarrow will hold a large volume of soil and thus require less frequent watering than smaller planters, it does need to be kept moist for best results, unless uniquely drought-tolerant plants are used. Feed the plants regularly with a soluble fertilizer solution to promote good health and vigor. Slow-release fertilizers are a good way to provide extended feeding over a period of many weeks.

Get creative with your mobile planter. Cascading flowers are a real showstopper. A desert design could include dwarf agave, various succulents, and a surface mulch of decomposed granite or gravel. Bush-type squash, a mixture of lettuces and other greens, multicolored chard, or determinate dwarf tomatoes are among the many options for a vegetable planting.

Don't let a lack of space keep you from growing plants. Even gardeners with lots of space will find a wheelbarrow planting is a great way to enhance their landscape or add to their vegetable patch!

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