Friday, May 23, 2008

Container Gardening for the Sweltering South

Plant swap find - my container hosta.

Boxwood as backbone.

Glazed, fancy pottery. A late season sale purchase didn't hurt the purse.

Salvation Army pottery find for hens and chicks - $2.

Galvanized tin bucket for petunias.

Elvis Costello, Weezer, Loudon Wainwright and Frank Black have been keeping me company while I get a few things done in our Sugar Hollow Deck Garden. After a few years of container gardening (one of my all time favorite ways to garden, by-the-by), I have a few tips that I hope can save you some precious time and Benjamins - while keeping the frustration factor as low as possible. 'Cause you don't want to run away from the experience pulling your hair out, right? Right.

1. Treat yourself to some backbones. Good for quick greening up of a space. Little evergreens, boxwoods, hostas, ivy - all surprisingly interesting when potted up in a container garden space.

- I find my little boxwoods and shrubs at The Big Home Improvement Stores for a few dollars. My hosta found me through a plant swap. Ivy can be propagated easily through cuttings. Quick growing vines like morning glories and hyacinth bean are easy to start from seed and fill out vertical spaces.

2. I love the look of terracotta. However, it is a losing battle during the really hot months. And the smaller the container, the more difficult it will be to keep things watered.

Keeping-it-easy - Put (or keep the plants) in the plastic container you bought them in. Use these as inserts for the terracotta pots. They'll retain water while you enjoy the look of the terracotta. Kick back with container garden cocktail with all of the time and energy you save on watering.

3. Containers don't need to be expensive. I use old bushel baskets, galvanized tin containers and thrift store finds.

Keeping-it-cheap - Check out my post on transforming galvanized buckets into a salt-of-the earth container for your garden goods.

4. If you can afford them, buy glazed containers. Real deal pottery. These can get pricey. I usually wait until the end of the season and treat myself to one or two - at 40% off. But they withstand winters, retain moisture and can add another depth of character to your garden.

Keeping-it-cheap - Wait for October or November to make your purchase or visit local thrift shops for unique finds.

5. Plant wisely. Certain plants are more rewarding than others during our summer months.

Keeping-it-easy - My thoughts on what has worked during the thirsty months of July and August are here.

6. Watering can start to bite you in the ass. I know it is hard for me to keep up with it. Think about ways to cut back on feeding the water monster (with the right containers) or consider an on-the-fly container irrigation system.

Keeping-it easy-and-cheap - This idea from Gayla at You Grow Girl for a pop bottle irrigation system. Going on vacation? Put your beloved plants in an inch or two of water in your bathtub.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been trying all week to get back here to share some of my deck gardening thoughts. We have several garden areas that change throughout the year, and my deck garden is a favorite. I think I must be a slow learner, because it took me over ten years to figure out that I could plant some of what you call "backbone" plants and save myself a lot of trouble. It's a pretty big space, about 1200 s.f. of deck on four levels (three of which get planted). My evergreen "backbone" plants are a cedar, a barberry, and two euonymus. I don't know whether you would refer to my container perennials as "backbone" plants, but they are my great joy now... coneflower (I added an incredible "sunset" hybrid last year that is gorgeous), rosemary, oregano, cat mint, spearmint, coreopsis, salvia (it may be veronica... I can't remember!), and a climbing rose. I keep a coiled hose with sprayer in a pot, and I tend to water every other morning. It takes fifteen minutes, even with all those pots, because I start at one end and just work my way all around. I grouped photos with some comments into a Flickr folder, if interested, Our Deck Garden. I'm trying a new fertilizer this year, along with a hydrating material, both organic and both that I've used in a tropical environment with success. I can let you know how they work, partciulalry the hydrating material, as it would be fantastic to be able to cut back on watering the containers to just 1-2 x week.