Today we will be talking about container gardening, with an additional focus on unusual containers. Organic gardening doesn’t necessarily have to be traditional! So many of you are creative, artistic souls… Why not let some of that creativity show in your organic flower garden and vegetable patch?
Container gardening offers all the perks and challenges of gardening in a bed. There is almost nothing that can’t be grown in a container. Choosing and combining plants to grow in containers is a great way to experiment with garden design. Whether you choose to display a grouping of one plant per pot or create an entire garden in a single container, you can’t fail… because you can always swap plants in and out. You can even have a high yield vegetable, fruit or herb garden container garden.
Unusual containers for your plants can be a lot of fun and add beauty or whimsy to your garden. If the container is not entirely suitable (an odd shape, or not conducive to providing good drainage), nest a plastic pot inside it and the plants will hide the plastic pot from view.
Hanging baskets: Includes plastic, clay, wood and wire baskets. With a hanging basket, always make sure that you’ve accounted for drainage and that the resulting display is adequately supported by wires, chain, or rope, because a full hanging basket can be quite heavy. If taking the display down to water it is a hassle, use a watering wand.
Wall containers: A wall garden is a clever and charming way to display container-grown plants. You fasten them to a fence, courtyard wall, or other vertical surface preferably at eye level so you can readily appreciate them. Many containers intended for this use have one flat side so they can go flush against the wall; though this feature isn’t a requirement, it does look better and allow the plants within to grow upright. Remember – the supporting wire, brackets, or hooks have to be equal to the job, and that means holding the weight of a filled container.
Old shoes and boots, tea kettles, wicker baskets, cookie tins, old tires, wagons and wheelbarrows, and more: You can recycle all sorts of wacky and whimsical objects to hold and display potted plants — just use your imagination! Browse garage sales, thrift shops, junk piles, or even your own garage, basement, or attic. Any vessel of weather-resistant material can be a candidate.
Containers that at one time held toxic chemicals like oil
barrels should be avoided, also those constructed of wood
products that contained harmful preservatives, like creosote.
Oddball choices work best when the plants within don’t overwhelm them or spill over the sides and hide them from view, so choose smaller plants or ones that are slow-growing. Also, refer to the caution about attending to drainage.
Whiskey barrels are pretty standard at garden centers and home supply centers. Half whiskey barrels are a popular choice for planting many or larger plants, including small trees or even waterlilies and other aquatics. Line a barrel with plastic or use a plastic insert made for this purpose before planting; you want to prevent the rot and loosening stays and slats over time and also to protect the soil and thus plants from absorbing any leached tar or creosote that may be lingering. Remember! One of these barrels filled with anything is mighty heavy, so move it to its intended site before you fill it!
Preparation & Planting
After you choose your container, there are a few simple rules to follow before planting. If your container has been previously used for another purpose, clean it thoroughly. Scrub it with a mixture of bleach and water. Be sure to rinse very thoroughly and let it dry completely.
The next step is to put drainage holes in your container. If your container is made of material that will not allow drainage holes put a pot with drainage holes inside the chosen container. First, place a layer of rocks or pebbles about 1 inch deep at the bottom of your container. Then place your pot with drainage holes on top of this and plant your flowers in this pot. Be sure to empty your outside pot of any standing water on a regular basis.
If your unusual containers chosen for your container gardens are metal be aware that they will leave rust and water stains on concrete and wood as the water seeps out the drainage holes. It is best to use trays under these pots to prevent staining. Or, move the metal containers to a brick or stone surface that will not stain.
When preparing your container for planting be sure to line the bottom with first some window screen and then a layer of gravel to ensure proper drainage. Fill the container to about an inch from the rim with some good potting soil. When you start placing plants in your container, begin in the center and work your way to the outside. Taller plants are best for center plantings and short or trailing plants do well on the outside of the container garden pot.
Plant Care Tips
Be sure to water the pots in your container gardens on days there is no natural rain. Remove old blooms as soon as they begin to fade to promote increased flower growth.
More container ideas include: using an old wooden cask, or a concrete container might do well with cactus, or maybe an old red wagon for a country garden. If you prefer whimsical, use some old rubber boots. Some large old shells might be the perfect container for a container garden by the sea. Farmers supply stores have just the treasures you’re looking for - galvanized wash tubs, feed tubs, half whiskey barrels, and cream cans, for example. Old colanders are easy to find and usually inexpensive; they also have great, built-in drainage.
Place container plantings at various heights to make them even more striking. Container plants don’t have to be confined to just the porch or patio. They add texture and visual interest almost anywhere in the landscape. Glazed pots are ideal for container plantings because they don’t dry out nearly as quickly as unglazed ones; however, glazed pots won’t develop the cool and unusual patina that aged terra cotta pots can.
There are a few design principles to consider when planting container
gardens. They concern dimension, shape, and color.
To avoid a flat look, add a tall plant or a garden ornament for height and a trailing plant to drape down from the container. A grouping of different sized containers will also help achieve this goal. Chose plants that are in scale with the size of your container. As a guideline, plants should be twice as tall as the visible part of the container. If planting one large plant such as an ornamental grass, select a larger container that will fulfill both plant growth and design needs. Large plants can overwhelm small situations and small plants make little impact in large spaces. Also consider whether the container will be viewed from one side or several angles and position plants accordingly.
Although many people have the impression that container gardening is for flowers only, in recent years gardeners have had great success with fruits, vegetables, and herbs in container gardens. Just follow “normal” organic gardening principals, and be prepared to have a wonderful and eccentric gardening experience!
We hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as we enjoyed
putting it together! Remember – the only limit on your gardening
experience is your own imagination.
For a hands-on experience with organic gardening and farming, come stay with us at Enota’s Eco-Village. Book your reservation today for a cabin or campsite. We also can house large groups, so if your employees or club wants to book a retreat, we’re the place to go.