Garden in a Small Space
The Helpful Gardener brings the pleasure of gardening to your home. Here
you will find our container
gardening articles collected in one spot. Check back often because
we are constantly adding new tips, profiles, and articles.
LOW SPACE? NO PROBLEM
Enhance your patio, garden, or apartment with these great ideas
If you have little or no space for a traditional
garden, then container
gardening is your best bet. Container gardens can also be a charming
way to embellish your patio, entryway or deck. Although container
generally require more watering and feeding, they are quite easy to maintain
and care for. Container gardens are also a great solution if you
an herb garden (link to herb gardening article) as they can be placed
conveniently near the kitchen door or in a kitchen window box.
Choosing your Container:
Containers are not limited to terra cotta pots and formal urns. Use your
imagination! Pick a style that suits the surroundings, but that also suits
the plant or plants you wish to grow in it. Consider the style and color
palette you are working with. Cobalt blue containers may be a great way
to tone down hot color plants, but they may not suit a mediterranean-style
garden (terra cotta would be more appropriate). With the increasing range
of colors and styles of containers available today, sizable, stylish (and
affordable!) containers are easy to find, so make the containers part
of the grand scheme instead of just a place to plant.
The only must for choosing your container is that it must have drainage
holes. Another consideration when choosing your container is whether or
not you need a container that can hold up to freezing temperatures. Soil
expands when it freezes, so if you live in a cold climate, it’s
best to choose a forgiving material, such as wood. If planting a tree
or shrub, make sure that the container is heavy enough so that it won’t
blow over from being too top heavy.
Designing your Container Garden
Don’t just place pots any which way. It’s best to consider
the space first and then decide on the plants and containers that will
create the desired effect that suits your style. Experiment with clustering
containers together. In larger containers, don’t be afraid to mix
complimentary plants (link
to companion gardening article) together in the same pot.
Recommended plants for containers
When choosing plants for containers, again consider your zone and how
you will over-winter these containers. This of course is not a consideration
if you are using annuals; annuals are great bets for containers as they
provide constant color and eliminate over-wintering issues.
Most herbs make great container plants. Old stand-bys like rosemary,
thyme, and oregano have been grown in containers for centuries. Some herbs,
however, like dill or tarragon do not do well in container culture and
are best grown in the bed. That said, I feel container gardening is the
best way to keep your herbs handy to your cooking area; consider a window
box outside a kitchen window.
Think about how much maintenance you are willing to give your containers.
Succulents such as cacti or sedums are great low-maintenance plants, especially
for hot, dry areas. Rock garden or mediterranean plants are also well
suited for the dryer conditions that are usually found in containers.
If you live in a frost-free area, tropicals can be long-lived and striking
container plants. In colder areas cold-hardy perennials are good bets
to return year after year; be sure to use rock hard plants like hostas
or rudibeckias and be sure you are using frost-proof containers. If you
have a glassed in porch or a bright garage you can over-winter less hardy
perennials or shrubs; be VERY sure to check water conditions at least
once a month (plants use far less water during winter months but they
still need some).
Add visual appeal with verticality
Putting a trellis in a container is a great way to add verticality to
a container garden. Tropicals such as bougainvillea, mandevillea or jasmine
provide potent flower power and can be over-wintered as house plants in
colder areas. In colder climes, perennial vines like clematis or ivy can
give you the same vertical lift and allow you to over-winter in that garage
or sheltered place. With a little forethought, most plants can adapt to
container culture provided you are willing to cater to their needs.
Dependable, appealing, and undemanding
I have also found that grasses are great container plants; they are undemanding
and yet provide great sculptural forms in a wide variety of colors and
sizes. Grasses can be found to suit any climate or condition and blend
well with most styles of gardens; consider a grass for your container
Planting your Container:
To start, don’t forget that your container is going to be much heavier
once it is planted, so it is best, if possible, to plant your container
where you would like it to be situated. Layer the bottom of your container
with rocks, shards of pottery, or chipped wood in order to assist with
drainage but prevent soil loss through the drainage holes. Use a good
soil and add time release fertilizer. Fill the container with soil up
to where you want the roots to rest. Gently loosen the rots of the plants
and rest it on the soil, filling in around it with the remaining soil
to about one-inch from the top of the container. Water your container
thoroughly after planting. It is a good idea to cover the topsoil with
pebbles, chipped wood, dried moss, pine cones, or any other material that
will help keep the soil from drying out.
Caring for your Container Garden:
Although container gardens generally require more watering and feeding,
they are quite easy to maintain and care for. The soil dries out quickly
in a container, so they will need to be watered frequently.
It's a good idea to cover the topsoil with pebbles, chipped wood, dried
moss, pine cones, or any other material that will help keep the soil from
drying out. During hot weather, it’s best to water early in the
morning or in the late evening to avoid evaporation. You will also need
to make sure that you feed your plants on a regular basis with a good
fertilizer. If you provide the necessary ingredients to keep your plants
happy, containers can be a keystone in the small space or urban garden.
Get answers to your container gardening questions today at our Container
a Container Garden