Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
June, 2011
Regional Report

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This garden is made up entirely of containers.

Expand Your Garden with Containers

The essence of container gardening can be captured in a single Victorian urn draped with ivory baby's breath and crimson verbena, in a whiskey barrel overflowing with plump juicy tomatoes, or in a handmade box with golden cascading chrysanthemums spilling over a balcony railing.

Each of these planters contains a complete garden in a totally contained planting area. Unplantable areas and spaces where there are no beds can suddenly burst forth with color, creative expression, and landscape diversity. Container plantings hide unattractive features, satisfy the most intense artistic desires, and provide special accommodations for tender, fussy plants that need particular conditions the regular garden doesn't provide.

An Instant Garden
You can produce instant color or change the entire look of your landscape by moving containers or switching plants in the containers to reflect seasonal interest. Plants in containers can be planted more closely than in the garden, giving a quick effect, and earlier planting times will avoid heavy, wet spring soils.

Making Gardening Possible for Everyone
Containers also provide a way for people who are physically unable to garden at ground level to have productive lovely gardens at a comfortable height.

Soil Choice
Soilless planting mixes help avoid soil-borne diseases and pests such as nematodes. These mixes also keep the pots lighter so they can be moved, but will dry out quickly. Adding some finished compost will help with weight as well as fertilization.

Maintenance Requirements
When planning a container garden, you must pay particular attention to the time needed for maintenance. You can make things easier by concentrating the containers in one area, but container gardening is almost always maintenance-intensive. Since the plants are unable to draw moisture and nutrients from the surrounding soil, your lack of attention can result in stressed plants or untimely death. Keep in mind that the containers may need to be watered daily in hot weather, and the plants will need to be fertilized regularly.

Choosing Containers
Commercially produced containers can be expensive, although with a little ingenuity, almost anything can be used to hold a container garden. This is a great excuse to haunt rummage sales and second-hand stores for interesting containers. You can essentially use just about kind of vessel, as long as the plants are planted in an interior pot with drainage. Plant your tomatoes in a black nursery pot and then slip it into that beautiful but cracked Italian crock or willow basket.

Plant Choice
There is also some limitation to plants that will adapt to an enclosed growing area, so size, growth rate, cold-hardiness, and drought tolerance all need to be taken into account when choosing plants. Once these factors are weighed, the sky is the limit to what you can grow. Perennial and annual flowers, shrubs and small trees, vegetables and aquatic, herb and rock gardens are all possible.

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