(Family Features) - I remember when container gardening meant throwing a few geraniums in a clay pot out on the front steps. The pot invariably would be filled with weeds by midsummer, and the poor geraniums would be hanging on for dear life. My, how container gardening has changed!
With new varieties of flowers especially adapted for growing in pots, new containers that literally water themselves and fertilizers to keep the plants growing strong all summer long, gardening in a container is almost easier than gardening in the earth. This movement hasn't gone unnoticed.
Bruce Butterfield, research director at the National Gardening Association, has been conducting research on lawn and garden trends for more than 25 years. He says container gardening is hot. "Container gardening has been the top growth area in gardening the last five years," he says. "The number of people container gardening has increased from 19 million households in 2000 to 29 million households in 2005." So, why not jump on the container gardening bandwagon? Not sure how? Well, here are some simple designs and tips to grow the most beautiful and carefree container garden this summer.
Simple Container Garden Recipes
Try some of these container garden design recipes (all the plants are available at your local garden center):
- Canna lily with multi-colored leaves surrounded by cascading white bacopa and purple petunias
- Butterfly-attracting red penta planted in a sea of blue scaevola
- For a shady spot, red-flowered, dark-leaved New Guinea impatiens with pink torenia and white wax begonias
- Dark-leaved coleus with trailing helichrysum and pink verbena
Once you've decided what to plant, you need the proper container, soil and fertilizer to make the plants thrive. Plain clay terra cotta pots have been pushed aside by more dynamic and versatile pots. Glazed ceramic pots come in all shapes and sizes. Though more delicate than plastic pots, these containers add elegance to any deck, patio or outdoor room.
The biggest revolution in pots is the lightweight rubberized plastic, terra cotta look-alike self-watering containers. The pots have a water reservoir in the bottom. Just keep the reservoir filled, and through a wicking action the water will migrate into the soil and to your plant's roots. Your container can go days (depending on the weather) without being watered.
Once you have the container, you'll need to fill it with soilless potting soil. Don't use garden soil, which may contain diseases and insects and which can easily compact, making it hard for plant roots to grow.
To top it off, add time-release fertilizer to the container soil. These small pellets slowly release fertilizer each time you water or whenever it rains, providing the plants with a continuous supply of nutrients.
The beauty of container gardens is they can change with the seasons. When your spring container becomes unruly, remove the plants and put in heat-loving flowers, such as portulaca and verbena for a summer garden. Once that garden has had its run, try cool-weather flowers, such as snapdragons, flowering kale and pansies, for the fall. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Charlie Nardozzi, a nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National Gardening Association and Chief Gardening Officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.