Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
December, 2010
Regional Report

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This portable planter provides fresh greens all winter long, despite the weather.

Plant a Portable Garden

Our southern winters are mild but erratic. Temperatures are generally quite favorable to cool season gardening, but then there are the occasional hard freezes that can severely damage many of our otherwise cold hardy vegetables and flowers. These really cold spells are usually brief, lasting only a night or two, after which our cool season flowers and vegetables do just fine without protection.

We use clear plastic tunnels to protect some of our garden rows and run outside with sheets and blankets to cover semi-hardy vegetables or flowers when temperatures are forecast to drop really low. My favorite way to protect plants is to move them to a protected spot.

One way to do this is to grow your vegetables or flowers in large containers. You can set the containers in a nice sunny location and leave them there as long as temperatures are within their range of hardiness. If the weatherman forecasts colder conditions, it is not too difficult to move even heavy containers by using a dolly with a rope or strap to go around the container to hold it against the dolly.

My favorite cool season garden is one with its own wheels. I have an old wheelbarrow that is rusty but quite antique. After retiring it from garden work, it was enlisted as a planter. I filled it with potting soil and use it to grow a portable garden.

The most recent planting was with a mixture of cool season crops including spinach, bok choi, lettuce, broccoli and two types of kale, Red Russian and Toscano. During a recent freeze, it was wheeled into a protected spot for the one night of potentially damaging cold.

Another wheelbarrow in our gardening fleet is a much more modern one made of plastic. It has a crack in the bottom from being overloaded with some cinder blocks a few years ago. The crack serves as a drainage opening. If you want to make a planter from an intact wheelbarrow just use a drill to make a few holes in the lowest part of the base.

During the summertime these wheelbarrows are planted with various annual flowers. I start them off by planting them with seeds or transplants. Once they are blooming and looking good, they travel out front to various spots in the landscape where they provide instant color and traffic stopping interest.

Wheelbarrows provide lots of growing media area for sustaining very productive planting. They require regular watering, especially in the summer months, to maintain adequate soil moisture. I usually locate these portable planters in an area with morning sun and afternoon shade to cut down on their water needs without sacrificing bloom production. A little fertilizer periodically will help keep the plants growing and productive.

Try a wheelbarrow garden out for yourself this winter. This is a great way for people with very little planting space to have fresh greens all winter long. It will give "fast food" a whole new meaning!

Mix in a few cool season flowers if you like. If you're already using wheelbarrow planters, let us hear from you on the blog. Share your ideas and tips for gardening in a wheelbarrow.

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