Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
May, 2009
Regional Report

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An old tin bucket makes an nostalgic container garden with colorful flowers spilling over the edge.

Grow a Garden in a Pot

If you have limited space, or you're short on time, you don't have to suppress your desires to plant a garden. Think container gardening. Homegrown vegetables, fresh herbs, annual flowers with interesting foliage -- these can all be grown in containers and lift your spirits when you return home from work. You can grow all kinds of plants in all manner of containers including traditional pots, window boxes, buckets, an old wheelbarrow, an antique bathtub, wooden barrels, or other garage sale finds.

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 over the potting 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 do not tolerate soggy feet very well. To prevent the staining of your wooden deck, concrete slabs, patio floors, or outdoor carpeting, it's a good idea to use waterproof drainage saucers beneath containers.

Don't be tempted to dig up ordinary garden soil and put it in your containers. It is generally too heavy and does not provide proper aeration and drainage for vigorous and healthy plant growth. Use a prepared potting mixture that is formulated to provide proper drainage, aeration, and nutrient-holding capacity. A good potting mixture will be free of weed seeds, insect pests, and diseases.

Now is a great time to search out vegetable varieties that are labeled for container gardening. The determinate tomato varieties work well since they won't overwhelm the pot and generally don't need support. Bush cucumbers and melons can be found on many of the seed racks and I've had great success growing them in pots.
For taller-growing plants, including indeterminate tomatoes, climbing cucumbers, morning glories, fragrant sweet peas, dahlias, and gladiolus, place support stakes, small tomato cages, or a trellis into the pot as you set in the transplants. This will prevent damaging the foliage and roots later in the growing season.

Let your imagination be creative when designing a container garden. You will be surprised at how easy it is to have pots spilling over with colorful flowers, interesting foliage, ornamental grasses, culinary herbs, vegetables, and even a water garden in a pot.

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