The Joys of Container Gardening

I love containers on my deck and patio as they bring life and color. It is easy to put perennials, annuals, small trees and shrubs into your outdoor rooms. They can also provide privacy or block unwanted views.

There are a wide variety of planters available; from small pots to large planters. If you are using extremely large containers and the plants will not have large root systems, fill the bottom of the container with crushed soda or water bottles, or non-dissolving "peanuts". Simply place the filler in the bottom, place weed-barrier cloth over it and put in the soil and plants. It will make the planter easy to move and cut down on the expense of all of that potting soil.

Always use a soil mix that is designed for planters, as it allows for easier draining and provides more air to the roots. To keep soil from washing out the bottom of the pot, place a piece of weed-barrier fabric over the hole. Water can get out and the soil stays in place. If you are putting the container in a sunny location and want to cut down on watering, place a piece of disposable diaper over the hole and mix moisture-absorbing crystals in the soil. This will trap water and slowly release it.

To have better success with containers, put plants with like water requirements together. One sure way to have problems is to mix high water users with ones that need very little. Some other don'ts include: too small a pot, using soil from your yard, over- and under-fertilizing, too much water, too little water, mixing shade lovers with sun lovers, placing containers directly on the wooden decks (can rot the wood), and placing top heavy plants in areas that get a lot of wind. If you are going to hang pots from shepherds hooks, consider the weight after installing the soil, plants, and watering. Too much weight can cause the shepherds hook pole to bend toward the bottom in winds and is very hard to straighten out. Don't ask me how I know.

Try to use containers that have the same color theme or style. There is no right or wrong on color combinations of your plants. If you like the look of your creation, that is all that matters. Mixing perennials and annuals are a great way to update the look during the year. Simply remove the fading annual and put in a few new ones.

Your containers can provide winter interest, too. Clean out the old annuals and place branches you have pruned from shrubs and trees in the container to create a new look. Or mix small evergreen plants with the branches. Once springs comes around, you can remove the dead branches and plant annuals.

Many trees and shrubs are being bred smaller so they are ideal for pots. Using vegetable plants in your containers brings your crop closer to the kitchen and cuts back on a lot of insect problems or soil-born diseases. Large plants in containers add privacy, block unwanted views, and provide the "walls" of a room.

Have fun and be creative with your containers. If you love to experiment with different looks, this is an easy way to do it. If you don't like how a plant looks in one container, you can easily move the plant to another container. If you don't like where the planter is located, the simple solution is to pick it up and move it. You can't do that with a regular plant in the ground as easily.