Monday, June 29, 2009

Container Gardening 101

Newly bloomed Plumeria and I didn't know I had the pink ones too!

Over the years I have learned a few things about gardening in the Florida heat and the most important asset in my gardener's tool belt is the container. Most everything I plant these days is put into a container and I do this for several reasons:

The number one reason I container garden is because of our particular soil content. Namely it isn't soil at all, but sand. I have mentioned before we had a geology firm out to do some bore samples and it was reported to us that the first eighteen feet straight down on our property is sand. How many gardens do you see in the desert? Exactly my point. Not only is our yard all sand but where I wisely sunk both ponds there are three pepper trees. Due to the roots being so close to the surface it is almost impossible to dig a hole to plant anything.

Initially I planted my annuals straight in the ground and they did okay. Not great, just okay. I have found that planting my annuals in containers makes them last longer and if you use Miracle Gro, they will grow and bloom a good 60% bigger than just putting them straight in the ground. This year I bought a bag of Miracle Gro potting mix when Lowes had it on special. Usually I just buy any Wally World generic type potting soil. The difference is amazing and so worth the extra few dollars it costs. I won't ever buy anything but Miracle Gro in the future.

The second reason I plant in containers is due to the Florida heat. I have found that if I use containers I can control how much water the plants get much better than having them in the ground. Also, when planting I only use plastic containers. This is out of necessity and not by choice. I love terra cotta pots but with our heat I found that I simply could not give the plants enough water as it seemed to be absorbed into the pots and then the heat would bake the pots, the water would be gone and the plants would starve.

Another handy tip is when you get your plants home from the nursery, never leave the pots sitting on pavers, concrete or on a sidewalk. If you can't plant them immediately, the best place is to leave them on the ground. Leaving a plastic pot on a hot paver will sap the moisture out of the soil quicker than I can scarf a box of Twinkies. Not that I have scarfed an entire box before but I could, I really could.

The next reason why you may want to go the way of a container garden is versatility. There is a wealth of different pot styles and colors available for any type of theme you may want to have in your garden. I picked the beautiful, green plastic pot in the background at Wally World for only $20 on clearance. This weekend I replanted the palm from my grandfather's funeral in 2001. I carried that little baby back on the plane from Chicago and look how happy it looks in it's new home.

Additionally, if you have plants with special needs, say some shade lovers or water hogs, you can plant like objects together. That way instead of running around your entire garden to give special attention to those problem children; they are conveniently located in one spot for you.

One thing I like to do in my garden is put containers at different levels which I think is much more visually appealing then plants all on the same level. I have an old metal vanity chair I use as a plant perch and I also have used some old black and white speckled stock pots as perches, all you do is invert the pot and stack another on top and voila: instant plant stand. You can use the same technique if you have a wealth of old decorative pots on hand as I do.

Finally and probably what would have been my Mom's best reason to container garden if she had a green thumb: the ability to rearrange your pots. How many times have you planted something only to find later on that you wished you would have planted it elsewhere or that for the health of the plant it needed to be planted some place else? My Mom had a knack about rearranging the furniture in our house almost on a daily basis. While I can't rearrange our furniture, I can rearrange my pots any time I like. If we are having company over and the begonias are looking a little puny, I can switch them out with a pot of impatiens and everyone will think I have a green thumb!

I have a little sign in my garden that reads, "Happiness is holding a flower with both hands". I have found that being wrist deep in soil is one of my favorite things to do and takes me to my happy place; add these guys to the mix and life is good. (Even if Daisy has eatten every bromeliad I have) So why not give container gardening a try and let me know if you have any tips or questions.

Today's fasting blood sugar is brought to you by the number 155!



Everything looks so green - I'm jealous :)

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