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BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: Container Gardening
Kerry Peetz
/ Categories: Opinion, Commentary

BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: Container Gardening

By Kerry Peetz

Gardening in containers is an excellent choice for almost every gardener.  Containers can be used in many places — a large patio, or a small patio, a bare spot or a shared spot. Containers are especially great for parishioners with limited space and where traditional gardens are not possible. Those of us who live in apartments or are renting have the perfect solution in container gardening. They also work beautifully in areas that have poor soil or if there aren’t any means to do landscaping and upkeep.

Container gardens add an instant splash of color and, depending on the container, can also add an instant “wow factor.” A nice component of container gardening is that the pots are portable. They can be brought in before our Colorado hail storms and can easily be moved 7 inches to the left to receive more sunlight. In the past, most container gardens were filled with annual blooming flowers, but now vegetables, perennials and trees are grown. Whatever the plant, they wonderfully accent any balcony, patio, porch or landscape.

There are many good options available for container gardening, the most common being clay (terra cotta), plastic pots, half barrels, and lined wire baskets. Less common containers include: wood pallets, old wheelbarrows, hollowed out tree stumps, claw-foot bathtubs and more. Something important to keep in mind is that containers that held toxic materials should never be used.

After the decision has been made regarding the type of container, drainage is critical. Plants will not grow successfully in soil that stands in water. Soil filled with water doesn’t leave room for air, which is necessary for proper root health.  If there are no existing drainage holes in the container, make several holes in the bottom to promote good plant health.

Remember that weight and size are important factors to consider. If large containers are going to be used, some planning will need to be done. Heavy pots are next to impossible to re-locate once filled with soil. There are container dollies available with wheels for larger plants that will be transferred from place to place. 

Container size should accommodate the roots of the plant when it is fully grown. Place vegetable plants like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and beans in a minimum of five-gallon containers, and beets, carrots, lettuce, and green onions in three-gallon containers. Most herbs and radishes grow well in a gallon or less. Flowers, as a rule, should be planted according to their height. The higher the flower, the deeper the pot.

Potting soil shouldn’t contain insects or weed seeds. When filling containers, do not use our native soil. Much of the soil in our diocese contains clay that will cause compaction and reduce oxygen to the roots. Fresh, earthy-scented potting soil should be used each season. Avoid using last year’s soil, as it can spread disease.

Container gardens require more water than traditional gardens because of the rapid evaporation from the above-ground exposed sides. Plastic containers stay moist longer than ceramic, but even plastic containers may require once or twice-a-day watering during our hot summer days. When plants are allowed to completely dry out, there is a chance the roots will die. 

Container gardens are quicker to use fertilizers. Watering is also responsible for draining fertilizers. Controlled-release fertilizer granules are best to mix in at planting time. Depending on the plant, fertilizer may be needed as the season progresses. It is recommended to add a soluble fertilizer to the irrigation water as a supplement. Organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion or blood meal can also be used.

Of course, it is February and it’s too early to plant now. But it’s a good time to look at pictures and get ideas for your fabulous new container gardens.

“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.” — St. Francis de Sales

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