In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
January, 2012
Regional Report

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Tool sheds are not the prettiest sights in the garden, but I think these colorful hanging baskets help disguise an otherwise ugly view.

I Need More Gardening Space!

I don't think it's a coincidence that seed catalogs arrive during the cold, gray days of winter. Starved for bright colors in my garden, I'll spend the next few weeks pouring over those catalogs. My problem is that my imagination is larger than my garden, and when I'm finished dreaming, my list contains more varieties than I can possibly cram into my existing beds and borders. When my desire for the latest and greatest exceeds the space I have to grow them, I turn to containers. Rather than eliminating some of the seed packets on my wish list, I mentally calculate how many additional containers I'll need to accommodate my vision of a summer garden bursting with color and fragrance.

I actually like gardening in containers. I rarely have problems with weeds, I can move my plants at will to change the look of my garden or patio, and I love the convenience of growing herbs and vegetables right outside my kitchen door.

Choose the Right Containers
If you're interested in gardening in containers, go on a treasure hunt in your attic, basement, or garage before spending your hard earned money on new plastic or clay pots. Almost any type of container can be used for planting, as long as it has holes in the bottom for draining excess water. If it's not possible to drill holes in the bottom of a container, put a layer of pebbles on the bottom and then place your plants in plastic pots and set them inside the container.

You can be creative! Old buckets and watering cans will take on new personalities when planted with brightly colored impatiens, pansies, or marigolds. A toy dump truck, spilling over with purple and white alyssum, is sure to draw attention when parked on the patio. Or, think how much fun it would be to see creeping Charlie cascading from an old birdhouse, yellow and pink flowering sedums poking from a well-worn boot, or woolly thyme and violets springing from an old teapot. Even old Easter baskets, when lined with sphagnum moss and planted with parsley, will look fresh and bright all summer.

If you use metal containers, choose plants that don't require afternoon sun. Direct sunlight will heat up the container and cook the roots. Regular soil from the garden can dry excessively within the confines of a container, so use a peat moss-based commercial potting mix.

Plant Correctly
When planting, fill the container halfway with potting soil, set the plants as you would in a garden bed, and then add soil around the roots. Water well to settle the soil. If you're sowing seeds directly, fill the container about two-thirds with soil, sprinkle seeds on top, lightly cover with potting mix, and water gently. In either case, watering may have to be done daily in summer, and this continued watering will quickly wash nutrients out of the growing medium. To combat this, I feed every other week with a diluted houseplant fertilizer. It's also important to keep faded blooms pinched off. This encourages more blooms and helps groom the plants.

My advice is to go ahead and order those new seed varieties. Then go on a treasure hunt around the house, visit flea markets, or attend some yard sales. I'm sure you'll find that perfect container to show off those fabulous spring and summer blossoms.

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