As spring approaches I am getting excited about the garden again, like I usually do this time of year. As much work as it is, as much as I despise everything ripening at once regardless of how I stagger planting, as much as I rethink what a good idea a garden is in late August when I can hardly keep up with the watering and canning and freezing, I do enjoy the garden. There is nothing that can equal the freshness and wholesomeness of homegrown.
This is why I was saddened when I overheard a couple saying that they just didn’t have room for a garden so they would never have fresh vegetables. No matter where you live, no matter how limited your space, you can have a garden. It just takes a little ingenuity.
Voila, the container garden. Now, before you go thinking that a container garden is the old-school thinking of one tomato plant in a pot, think again. Planting in containers has become increasingly popular as a way to use limited space to produce fresh vegetables as well as doubling as accents to a house. The sky is the limit as to what you can plant in a pot. Anything goes from flowers and herbs to fruits and vegetables.
The even better part is that it is not rocket science to get started, you just need a few common sense guidelines to follow. The golden rule to remember here is, unlike traditional garden space where plants have good drainage after rain, plants in containers can get water-logged in a hurry. Always remember to put drainage holes in the bottom of pots so excess water has a place to drain.
Almost anything can be used as a pot. Traditional pots, tubs, half barrels are all fair game to be used as planters. For years, we have used various antiques to either hold other pots or to plant directly in. Old wooden carts, milk can carts, old manure spreaders and wooden wagons that have seen their better days can enjoy a second life when filled with flowers. Old butchering kettles make a nice focal point in a yard.
A nice touch of yesteryear that is making a comeback are window boxes. There is nothing prettier, especially on a Cape Cod style home, than to see window boxes gracing the windows. They are easy to install, enhance a home’s appeal and many have self-watering features as well as drainage holes already built in. How much easier can it get?
Another kind of container gardening that really packs a punch for optimizing space are raised planting beds. The designs for these are unlimited and the height can be whatever works best for you. All you need are planks nailed together to hold the soil. This can be one long raised bed, a series of raised beds in a row, or whatever formation suits your surroundings. Many times they are “stacked” where a large one is assembled first, then another smaller one is built on top of that one, and so forth as high as you wish to go. These are like high-rise apartments for plants.
Tomatoes, dwarf fruit trees, herbs, just about anything can be “contained.” Herbs like basil, chives, thyme, oregano and many others are quite happy in pots. You can add a little greenery and make the pot not only functional but also a means to add charm to your home. You can customize your pots to tie into the architecture of your home or backyard by the types of pots you choose. They run the gamut from plastic to concrete to clay. The type you choose can provide instant color and provide a focal point for your place.
If you want a breaking point between you and your neighbor without straining the relationship by putting up a fence, try containers on the boundary line. You’ll have to choose well with a little forethought. Taller, skinnier containers placed close together with plants that tend to vine and twine provide a semi-privacy barrier that both you and your neighbor can enjoy.
Don’t forget houseplants when considering your container garden. Many of these like to come outside for the summer. While they are soaking up the rays, they are also providing greenery and enhancing your outdoor living space. At summer’s end they can easily be taken back in the house to provide you with plenty of oxygen during the dry winter months.
If your main purpose of having containers is for added color, you are probably going with more flowers than vegetables. If so, remember the thriller, spiller, filler method of planting. The thriller is your focal point so go for bright geraniums with multi-colored leaves, bright fuchsia or anything to your liking that says “stop and look at me.” The spiller is any variety that will spill over the edge such as wave petunias or creeping zinnias. Don’t forget the trailing ferns here too. The filler is exactly what it says, it fills the arrangement. Here you will want plants with smaller leaves and flowers that fill in the spaces with a pop of color. Follow this method and you will have stunning flower containers.
Plants, just by their very nature, make a person feel good. There is something about digging in the soil, even if it is only in a pot, that brings out the wholesomeness, back to nature feeling. So, don’ let space rob you of this pleasure that has been innate in all of us since the beginning of time — the urge to just go dig in the dirt.