In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
May, 2012
Regional Report

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An old drawer makes a whimsical container to express your inner gardening feelings.

Plan and Plant Container Gardens

No matter how busy may be or how limited our gardening space may be, we can still experience the joy of growing and nurturing plants. Even a container filled with flowers or vegetables located near the front or back door brings us closer to nature and feeds our souls. Container gardens can create easy-care oases of charming color and fragrance all through your landscape.

Growing in containers offers many advantages. Container gardens require minimal weeding, they can be placed close to a water source, and they can be located at comfortable heights that minimize bending down or kneeling for tending. The beauty of container gardening is that you can grow many kinds of different plants with different needs, side by side.

At the old farmstead, there are all kinds of treasures that could make unique and whimsical plant holders. That old porcelain bathtub might be filled with root vegetables and herbs since it will hold a good volume of potting soil. The aged wine barrels offer homes for tropical cannas and even a banana. Old ash buckets, watering cans, and cast iron sinks are great for colorful annuals and sweet potato vines.

No matter what container you use, it's important to make sure that you fill it with a good potting mix, not plain garden soil straight from the garden. Excellent drainage is a must, so look for a mix with additives such as pumice or perlite that add pore space and increase drainage. Some mixes have time-release fertilizer added, making it easier to supply needed nutrients, although you can also mix slow-release fertilizer into a growing mix yourself at planting time.

As you get ready to design your container garden, be sure to select plants that are adapted to the amount of sun or shade the container garden will receive. As the summer months approach, be aware that soil temperatures in the container can heat up like an oven if the pot receives full western or southern sun exposure. If you only have full sun and no shade from a tree canopy or patio, plant succulents, cacti, or desert type plants that can take the heat.

Taller growing plants, such as tomatoes, dahlias, lilies, gladiolus, vining cucumbers, morning glories, and thunbergia, need stake supports or a trellis placed in the container at planting time. This prevents damage to the root system that can occur when supports are added later in the growing season.

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