Container Gardens – Big Growth in Small Spaces

Container gardens are perfect for city apartments, balconies, decks, patios, and interior rooms. These gardens take up less room and are easier to care for than large ones. Even a black thumb gardener can take care of one pot.

On its Web site Cornell Plantations, part of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, says “container gardening is gaining in popularity for small spaces, and as a way to accent existing gardens.”

The word “container” sounds limiting, but container gardens are virtually unlimited. Some gardens are filled with a variety of plants. Others are filled with one type of plant. There are theme gardens as well. Laurel Morris, a North Carolina master gardener, describes theme gardens in her article, “Herbal Theme Container Gardens.”

“Grouping together herbs which will be used in a certain cuisine is not only practical, but would make a fabulous gift,” she writes. Her theme garden ideas include a spaghetti herb garden, pizza herb garden, and herbal vinegars garden. After you have decided on the type of garden you want it is time to choose containers

Free containers — milk cartons, plastic milk bottles, soda bottles, buckets, and wide-mouth jars — are ideal for container gardens. You may also use plastic bags with drainage holes and metal mesh bags. Self-watering containers are available from gardening stores. If you use self-watering containers you still need to check on your plants.

There are many types of self-watering containers: chip-resistant, high gloss, stacking, raised beds, and window boxes, to name a few. Self-watering containers tend to be more expensive, so you will have to decide if they are worth the money.

Your container gardens are small, but they still have to be planted correctly, according to Cornell University. Before you open the potting soil there are many things to consider.

COLOR. Do you want one color, contrasting colors, or plants with adjacent colors on the color wheel? The colors you choose can have a lot to do with the enjoyment you feel.

FORM. According to Cornell there are five general categories of form: upright, rounded (or a mound), arching, prostrate/trailing, or irregular. These forms may be combined in containers.

TEXTURE. You may prefer smooth plants and plants with fine texture, Cornell notes, or you may prefer spiky plants. Plants that have a coarse texture tend to be larger and often have fewer leaves and flowers.

LINES. Your gardens may be horizontal, vertical, or a combination of both. Make sure you leave enough room for plant roots to grow and spread.

The location of your containers is also important. Check seed packets and plant tags to see if the plant grows best in sun, shade, or partial shade. Fragile plants should also be shielded from the wind. You may not be a master gardener, but container gardens can make you feel like one!

Copyright 2009 by Harriet Hodgson