Creating Container Gardens
Container gardening offers a wonder opportunity to allow your creative imagination to run wild. You become the artist, while your containers serve as the canvases on which to paint your pictures. As with all types of gardening, there are some basic guidelines to follow when planting in containers. Following a few simple precepts will make a vast difference in the results of your container gardening efforts. Container plants are somewhat more demanding because they are more dependent on the gardener for their needs. Fortunately, their needs are quite simple: appropriate soil, proper light, sufficient water, shelter from extreme heat or cold, and pest control if needed.
Selecting your Containers
Before selecting containers, consider where you will be placing them. If you want a dazzling window box to present you with a cheerful bouquet from you breakfast nook window, choose either a wooden or plastic rectangular window box. Keep in mind that window boxes will need to be attached to your house or sit on a window sill. Do you have a patio, a deck, or an area around your swimming pool that you want to blossom with color? If so, planting a variety of your favorite flowers in containers of mixed styles, materials, shapes, heights, or colors presents a great opportunity to express your creativity. Such container gardens make vibrant displays either in a patio corner, against a drab bare wall, or perhaps on either side of an outside walkway.
Examples of containers you can mix or match include wooden barrels, clay pots of various sizes and shapes, glazed ceramic pots, plastic pots, galvanized tubs or buckets, or wire pots. Don’t forget the possibility of using some clay strawberry jars as blooming show stoppers! Do you have a penchant for hanging baskets? There are many styles, shapes, and sizes to choose from and the choices are entirely up to you. Remember, you are the artist!
Attributes of Suitable Plant Containers
Containers should be large enough to give plants plenty of root space for healthy growth. Window boxes should be at least 9-10” deep and 9-10” wide. Let the width of your windows gauge the width of the window boxes you select. The sizes or shapes of other containers are best chosen by the variety or size of plants you want to grow in them. All containers should have sufficient drainage holes in the bottom. It is a good idea to place a layer of pebbles or gravel, or perhaps broken pieces of clay pots in containers lacking holes. Drain holes prevent over watering and help provide air circulation necessary for healthy plant growth. Be sure to thoroughly clean any containers that were used for previous plants, as this prevents diseases from attacking your new plants.
Selecting Soil for your Containers
It is recommended that you use commercially prepared potting soil in garden containers. Potting soil is always sterilized as opposed to your garden soil. Soil from you garden contains bacteria, noxious seeds, and possibly other harmful organisms that may infect your newly potted plants.
Potting soil contains rich organic material such as peat and various composted barks. It also contains vermiculite, which helps the soil drain, yet keeps it moist. Potting soil is relatively inexpensive considering all the benefits your plants will derive from it.
All potting soil should be thoroughly moistened prior to filling your containers. It is best to soak the soil overnight before planting tender seedlings, as they need moisture to prevent them from becoming stressed following transplanting. Adding a reliable brand of granular fertilizer when planting will give your seedlings a great start.
Next Comes the Fun Part! It's Planting Time! Or is It?
By this time you have decided where you want your containers to be situated. You’ve also selected how many you’ll need, and the styles and sizes that will suit your needs for, your fancy! You’ve dashed out to Esbenshade’s Garden Center and purchased several bags of potting soil to fill your new containers. Finally – you’re all ready to plant! Did you say you haven’t decided which flowers to plant where? You’re not sure who goes with what? Should you plant pansies with petunias? Or perhaps marigolds with mums? Or will it be daisies with dahlias and dianthus?
True, there are so many plants to choose from it could boggle your mind! This can be a bit daunting if you’re a first-time container gardener. What you need next, then, is a plan. Here again, just remember. YOU are the artist. YOU get to plant in your containers what YOU wish to see, smell, touch, or maybe even eat!
For starters, consider the growing patterns of various plants. Some plants are “trailers,” others are “fillers,” while still others are “uprights.” Some have large blooms; others sport medium sized blossoms, while still other varieties produce showy clusters of flowers that will droop prettily over the side of your container. Then there are those with tall stalks, medium sized stalks, and those that have no stalks at all, but grow in compact clumps. Some have blossoms of yellow, pink, red, purple, orange, blue, white, variegated colors, and the list goes on!
Definitely confusing, right? No so! Drawing up a planting plan will help resolve your confusion.
Tips on Creating a Dazzling Spring Window Box
To show off all the plants in your window box, select plants of different heights. Next, select flowers with blossom colors that compliment each other. Doing this will give your container a more pleasing eye appeal. Now, consider the foliage color, size, and texture of the plants you select.
Sometimes adding plants with striking foliage and no flowers will make an outstanding addition to a window box. Then there’s the issue of symmetry, or balance. Do you want a super formal look, or more of an informal cottage garden look? Just remember, you’re the artist painting this flowering canvas to suite YOU!
An Eye Catching Blend of Summer Hues
‘Blue Victoria’ Salvia is an excellent choice as an upright flower for the back area of your window box. They will provide a cool shade with their tall spikes of blue flowers. Salvia blooms from late spring to late fall, and adapts well to containers. Two to four plants will be adequate.
‘Scarlet’ Nicotiana is a charming, old fashioned upright flower, with showy trumpet-shaped blossoms. Choose the scarlet colored variety called ‘Domino’ to blend beautifully with other colors we will be adding. Alternate 3 or 4 Nicotiana with the Salvia when planting.
‘Trailing Classic’ Zinnias with their cheerful blossoms will cascade nicely over the edge of your window box. Plant one or maybe two in each front corner of your window box, placing them fairly close to the outer edge for trailing. They will also bloom until late fall with little care.
‘Trailing Rapid Blue’ Lobelia produce masses of tiny dark blue flowers from late spring to late fall. Their delicate dark green leaves create a pleasing foliage contrast. Intersperse these little gems between the Classic Zinnias and Marigolds for a smooth symmetrical look.
‘Yellow Pot’ Marigolds are a superb filler plant. They are easy to grow, and will make a splash of bright yellow planted front and center with the Blue Lobelia and Classic Zinnias. This continues the symmetric or balanced look of your window box.
A delicate ‘Pink Miniature Rouletti’ Rose will add a touch of elegance and a heavenly fragrance, and also fill out the center of your window box. This dainty miniature rose offers great foliage contrast and is a superb color compliment for a finishing touch.
Your brilliant container “garden painting” is now complete. You will soon see the full beauty of your handiwork as each plant grows and bursts into bloom.
Care of your Window Box
Container plants need to be watered more often than those planted in your garden. Establish a regular watering schedule for best results. Spray a reliable liquid fertilizer on your plants every 2 to 3 weeks to keep them thriving and healthy. Keep an eye out for noxious plant “pests” and if necessary, treat with a reliable organic pest control substance. Finally, be sure to deadhead faded or drooping blossoms and leaves. Doing this keeps your window box looking fresh as a daisy, and also promotes continual blooming throughout the summer.