Joy of the Container Garden

Just the thing you wish your mother would have told you as a kid, isn`t it? Well, now that you`re all grown up and starting a container garden, you can play in the dirt all you want. As a matter of fact, it`s a very important aspect of your container garden!

Garden original

Without the proper soil, the plants you're about to put in those pretty containers won`t stand much chance of survival. Of course, the type of plants (flowers, herbs, vegetables, etc.) plays a large role in what soil medium should be used. So, it`s best to consult the garden center pros to see which soils work best for which plants. But, there are several basics that apply universally.

Rather than just digging up some soil from the yard, you should make a trip to your neighborhood gardening store and pick up some good soil. The stuff we find in our yards simply doesn`t contain enough nutrients for container gardens and it's generally too dense to allow proper growth.

Generally speaking, you`ll want a fast-draining, porous soil mixture. You should choose one which contains peat, perlite, vermiculite, and shredded bark.

Poorly drained soil mixes, which are heavy, is the main reason for plant failure in container gardening. Before you place your soil in the container, it`s a good idea to add a layer of gravel or activated horticultural charcoal (found at the garden center) to the bottom of the container. This ensures that your drainage holes don`t clog and allows even better drainage for your plants.

The soil level in your container should be about one inch below the top of the container. The artworkThis will make it easier to water without it running off the top. It may be necessary to add a bit more soil after it has settled. Your gardens soil is so simple, yet so important. So, grab your gloves, get your dirt, and get messy! 

The idea for this article came during my first trip to Europe, eight years ago, when I was thrilled by the casual abundance of pot plants in the patios and courtyards of southern France, Italy, and Greece. In the cities and towns of northern France, England, Scotland, Belgium, Holland, and particularly Switzerland, I marveled at the window boxes of luxuriant red and pink geraniums.

Since then I have made two extended trips to Europe to visit other countries. In Portugal and Spain, I saw secluded patios, with rippling fountains and pools adorned with potted roses and carnations. Throughout Ireland, Austria, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries, I admired the countless window boxes filled with geraniums and tuberous begonias. All this left me with the thought that we, too, should use container plants with greater freedom.

One Plant, a Garden

It occurred to me that a single attractive container plant at a doorway or on a porch or balcony is enough to make a pot garden. The idea was strengthened one hot August afternoon when I saw a tub of Black Prince fuchsia gracing a simple colonial doorway. Similarly, the container garden might even comprise two specimen plants, as urns with clipped yews or clumps of geraniums.

The original

Growing plants in containers is a distinctive form of gardening. It is particularly appealing because the plants can be moved about for a change of picture and mood. But it also has an architectural quality lacking in plants that are grown in the open ground. What garden sight is more delightful than a flight of stairs bedecked with pots of fiery red geraniums? Or what compares to a pool reflecting great blue hydrangeas in tubs or urns or to window boxes overflowing with petunias high above the city streets.

In recent years, growing plants in movable or immovable containers, pots, and tubs, window and plant boxes, planters, and hanging baskets-has developed into a new gardening concept. In part, this is due to contemporary architecture, which presents numerous opportunities for the display of container plants around the house and garden. Patios and terraces, paved walks, paths and driveways, planters, raised beds, and retaining walls are characteristic of today's new homes. Sun decks, barbecue areas, garden shelters, swimming pools, tennis and badminton courts, carports and private docks for boats are other indications that Americans are spending more time outdoors. Although container gardening is essentially old and timeless, it has evolved to suit the needs of the day.