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Container Gardening 101

7 min read | Dec 3, 2012 | Plants 

Container Gardening 101

Container gardening is becoming more and more popular, for various reasons. Whether you want a container garden to grace your entryway, to grow tomatoes to set on your patio, or to attract hummingbirds to your deck, all can be easily accomplished with a little container gardening know-how. The experts at Fairview Greenhouses and Garden Center have compiled the information below to help you have success with your container gardening endeavors. If you have any questions or need some help putting your container garden together, just visit the nice people in the greenhouse at Fairview… they have the know-how to help you design a beautiful container garden, as well as tips to help it flourish! If putting your own containers together isn’t your cup of tea, they can help with that, too!

Picking Your Container
1. Containers must have proper drainage. Over and under watering is the number one killer in most plants.

2. Adding pebbles, rocks or non-soluble packing peanuts can help with drainage.

3. Pick a style container that compliments its environment. (Ex. A roman-styled urn will look out of place in a country cottage landscape).

4. If containers are to be used year round, make sure they can take the hot sun in summer months as well as possible freezing temperatures in winter months. Also, be sure that your pots are light/heavy enough (or on wheels) so they can be moved if heavy winds, hail or icing occurs. Remember, wood may rot or mold, and terra cotta may crack in the winter, so when shopping for a container, consider alternatives.

5. Smaller pots dry out faster than larger ones.

6. Make sure you pick the correct size container for its location.

7. If you want to design a pot using more than one plant, make sure your pot is large enough so your plants have room to grow. It is best (and healthier for your plants) if you choose smaller plants/larger containers and give your plants room to grow (so they do not become rootbound). They may seem too small at first, but eventually you will have fuller, healthier plants/containers that last longer than a container that is too small for the size/number of plants that are in it.

8. Be creative! You can use anything for a container if the above steps are adhered to.

9. If reusing your summer container, you will want to: dispose of the old soil, rinse pot with bleach water to remove any existing critters or diseases, clean any potting utensils with bleach water before using.

Positioning of Containers
1. You can hide those unsightly cable and meter boxes, trash cans, pipes and wires, etc. around your house with containers.
2. The deck can come to life with just a few colorful containers.

3. Use pots to add height and dimension to the garden bed.

4. You can place containers to help direct traffic through your yard.

5. You can liven up the entrance to your house and garage with exotic plants.

6. Containers can be used next to pools and water gardens to add interest and color.

7. Containers are great to soften hardscapes and to add punch to areas where nothing else will grow. Ex. Retaining walls or areas with no soil.

Depending on plant type, Plant tone, Osmocote, Bone meal, Liquid Ironite are all items that can be used to feed your plants. Please read all labels to ensure you do not ‘burn’ your plants with too much fertilizer. Also read the directions for how often you need to repeat this process. We also recommend using the Pansy fertilizer for pansies and Bloom Plus for summer flowering annuals. These products have a high middle count (ex: 7-22-8). The first number is for creating healthy foliage. The second number is for making a healthy root system and bigger and longer lasting bloom production. The third number is for overall health. It is also a slow release formula so there is no risk of burning your plants by over fertilization. It is advisable to use this when planting and then reapplying in early spring.

There are many organic and non-organic options available to control critters and pests, depending on the plant type and your pest problem. Please ask one of our Garden Center associates for help diagnosing your problem and what they would recommend as a remedy.

Watering Tips
1. Water the soil not the plant.

2. Try to protect the foliage from water splashes.

3. Let the water drain out and empty the saucer. It is best to never allow a plant to set in water.

4. Use a watering stick to determine when the next watering is needed. Just because the top of the soil is dry doesn’t mean the roots aren’t still wet.

5. Over and under watering is the number one killer of plants!

Sun and/or shade are critical factors in plant placement, whether inside or out. Before purchasing a plant, spend a day figuring out how much actual sun you receive. It is also important to know how much light (not direct sun) you have. Remember as seasons change so does the direction of the sun and sun hours. We will try to help you select the correct plant for this location but without actually visiting the plant site, we can only go on the information you give us.

If a container is up against a wall, you should rotate the pot every week to ensure all the plants receive sunlight and growth space. If the containers you have are too heavy, we have coasters with wheels to make rotation easy.

5 Design Principals
There are several design principles to take into consideration when planning your container gardens.

1. FOCUS- The focal area is where the eye is drawn to first. Place the focus below the tallest point to achieve balance. Develop focus by using large, coarse, or bright colored plant material in that area.

2. FORM- Vary the form of the plant material you choose; use tall linear species to add height; mounded species to add mass; and low growing, cascading species to fill in, add depth, and soften the edges of the container.

3. TEXTURE- Add coarse, medium, and fine textured plants together. Three to five species will achieve an assortment of forms and textures. Use variation and gradation of form and texture.

4. RHYTHM- Repeat color at regular intervals around the outside of a round container or along the length of a long rectangular container. Repeat color in several containers to “tie” them together. Graceful lines of plant leaves add flow and rhythm.

5. PROPORTION- Use larger and/or more plants in larger containers, and less and/or smaller plants in small containers. A good rule of thumb: the height of the tallest plant should not exceed 1X – 2X the height of the container excluding pedestals.

Tips For Creating Container Gardens
1. For a nice surprise in the spring, plant spring bulbs in your fall containers and then plant your fall flowers over them. In the spring as your plants are tiring, you will have beautiful spring bulbs blossoming.

2. In your container garden, mix plants with at least three textures of foliage to make more interesting.

3. Use plenty of plants that are foliage plants (with no flowers) in your designs. In most cases, foliage color, leaf shape, and texture are just as important as the flowers themselves.

4. Some good foliage contrasts would include: downy with glossy; dark with gray; small with large; yellow with violet.

5. Use colorful foliage (like Coleus) to “echo” the color of flowers in the container.

6. To add interest, vary the shape of the flowers in your container garden.

7. Bicolor flowers are becoming more available and are great for color echoing.

8. Sometimes you just have to do some “snipping and tucking” of faster growing plants when they are mixed in with slower growing ones. Otherwise, you will “lose” the slower ones and your design gets destroyed.

9. Vegetable annuals mix well with other annuals, perennials, tropicals, and bulbs, as long as they have the same care requirements (ex. sun, water, etc.) Everything and anything goes as long as it is pleasing to the eye.

10. Be sure to use compatible plants with your tomatoes to add interest, color, and to deter insects.