Not everybody has the space — or the desire — for a sprawling garden in the yard, or even raised beds. Sometimes, due to limitations or even aesthetic choices, a container is the best bet.
“A lot of folks that like container gardens live in apartments or they don’t have a yard that’s conducive to growing,” said Reid Nevins, Lowndes County agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “It’s poor soil or there’s not good growing conditions for some other reason. A container garden is a grow-anywhere garden. If they move, they can pick it up and take it with them.”
All sorts of things can be used for the container, Nevins said.
“I’ve seen cattle feed tubs, I’ve seen five-gallon buckets,” he said. “I’ve seen a plant growing in an old boot.”
The important things are that the material be tough enough to hold up, he said.
“You don’t want paper-thin plastic buckets or anything, because the sun degrades it and it breaks down,” Nevins said. “Get something made of heavy plastic or metal, that will hold up a long time. Wood rots, even when it’s treated. When soil’s in contact with wood, it’ll rot.”
Drainage also is a must.
“If you fill (a container) up with dirt and put plants in it, and it can’t drain, the roots will rot,” he said.
Nevins — who said he “is not a flower guy” — mostly touted vegetables and small fruit trees as good candidates for a container garden.
“A lot of folks will grow small lemon trees in those kinds of containers,” he said. “They put them out when it’s hot, and then roll them in the house to a sunroom or something when it gets cold.”
Nevins recommended annuals that don’t get too big as good possibilities: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and “small, bush-type vegetables.”
“Just don’t overcrowd the space,” he said.
Mary Tuggle, manager at Walton’s Greenhouse on 18th Avenue North in Columbus, most certainly is into flowers. She said a container garden mixing several types of plants is a great accent or splash of color for an entry or exit to a house.
She said the perfect pot involves a “filler, a spiller and a thriller.”
“A filler goes in the middle,” she explained. “It’s a pop of color, most people do it with something with heavy leaves. The spiller is at the edge of the pot. It’s normally greenery or some type of foliage that cascades down. The thriller is up top, with height and not volume, and is the showiest piece.”
Tuggle steered well clear of recommending boots, old or otherwise, as containers.
“Most people look at their front entrance and try to match the color of the house or of the brick or patio stones,” she said.
She agreed that it needs to drain well to avoid root rot, but also cautioned against using shrubs or plants that produce heavy bulbs.
“The roots get too big, and it just bursts the container,” Tuggle said.
Nevins and Tuggle both recommended choosing soil that drains well, and won’t get compacted over time. Nevins described the ideal soil as “fluffy,” and Tuggle recommended including slow-release fertilizer to feed it as you water.
“That way you don’t have to remember to fertilize,” she said.
For a beautiful, unique combination of edible plants and aesthetic value, Tuggle suggested a “lasagna pot” — tomatoes, a pepper, oregano and basil.
“The tomato is the center,” she said. “The oregano will cascade. The basil is the filler. All that goes in a 14-inch pot.”
Whether gardening to supplement your kitchen or just to pretty up the place, Tuggle said to be creative.
“The main thing is that it adds color and shows the personality of the person doing the pot,” she said.
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