The joys of container gardening – DIY tips and tricks of the trade

Many gardening enthusiasts may not have big yards, but they’re still keen to play in the dirt! Happily, flexing one’s green thumb is not out of reach for anyone!

Small spaces like balconies, decks, and windowsills are itching for a pretty pot of flowers.

Great gardening pleasures can be had by any gardener, even in the smallest spaces. As a former apartment dweller, I can say for the record that anyone who is keen to grow something, can have their own little piece of paradise, too.

Choice of container and design is limited only by the imagination, and of course the amount one is willing to shell out for it!

Containers range in size, shape, and substance. Clay pots, wooden barrels, wire wall/hanging baskets, and plastic urns, are just some examples. However, with limited space, one might want to keep in mind that some containers need to be stored in a sheltered site over the winter, especially clay pots which may crack in really cold climates like mine.

Not unlike a ‘conventional’ garden plot, container plantings require suitable preparation.

Space, light, soil, water access, plant food, and of course weather, should all be taken into account. By seeking suitable plant material for these conditions, one can ensure a bountiful show, so all that effort and investment going into those planters doesn’t go to waste.

Restricted root space may add constraints to plant preferences, too. Over the course of a growing season some varieties (like asparagus fern) are more prolific with their root multiplication than others.

Good drainage is key for successful container gardening. Nobody wants soggy plant roots that inevitably drown. Nothing kills a plant like kindness! (Take it from me, I know, lol.) This is easily avoided by making sure the container has holes in the bottom. With the addition of broken clay pot shards, pebbles, or even Styrofoam chips lining the bottom of the pot, excess water has somewhere else to go.

Along with begonias, geraniums, herbs, or flowing foliage plant bulbs, seeds, and yes, even veggies will thrive in a container!

Just think of the fabulous fresh basil, (plus other herbs), and even cherry tomatoes, all of which can be grown in a very small space. In fact, one year I grew a container full of ornamental corn!

Succulents are perfect for patios, and for on the wall, too! Most of all they’re drought tolerant and as a vertical garden, take up no floor or table space at all.

I like to use unusual containers, for example a bunt pan, which can go on the patio table with the big umbrella right through the hole in the middle. It’s a great way to save space! These can be picked up cheap at most second hand stores! Violets in spring would look nice in them, too.

Tropical plants love the heat and humidity. All of my houseplants go outside for the summer, with the added benefit of making my house seem a lot more spacious during the growing season! Some don’t like too much sun, and there is a downside… when I bring them back in, once again I have to determine who gets the best sunny spots for the winter, (as there’s only so much window space), make sure there are no pests clinging about, (yuck), and our house seems once again, a little less spacious! But that’s okay!

In the past, I’ve layered the two big whiskey barrel containers, (since replaced with cement pots) from our porch with flowering bulbs. Simply plant them beneath the roots of any other plants that are dug in for the rest of the growing season. Tulips, daffodils, or crocus will shoot up and offer a lovely, early spring display! I let bulb foliage die back naturally. Other plants growing around them cover that up, and the bulbs can be planted in the ground, if you have a space, for the next year. It’s a great way to offer seasonal interest!

It’s also fun to experiment with different plant combinations, colours, textures, and foliage every year. Or not, because if you find a planting package that works for you, by all means, go for it!

Do keep in mind that many tender plants may not over-winter in containers, which are exposed to really cold temperatures that gets at their roots, unlike perennials that are insulated from frost by growing directly in the ground.

Unfortunately, most annuals aren’t hardy enough to get through a Haliburton Highlands winter. (However, I’ve had good luck overwintering parsley and kale in our raised beds). But, most annual plants grown in containers are cultivated for one season only and composted.

Geraniums might be the exception to this for me. I do over-winter a few of my favourites by bringing them in the house. Out they go again in late spring once any chance of frost damage is long gone.

In any case, there’s something to be said about gardening in containers!

Imagine a beautiful show without the aggravation of maintaining a big lawn or weeding flowerbeds!

Personally, I’m quite happy to mow a bit of lawn, and weed the garden too, which I find relaxing, though the size of our lawn shrinks every year because my garden keeps expanding, lol, (funny how that happens!) but in this, I may be an exception to the rule.

Happy Gardening!

 

November garden musings… switching gears from the outdoors to inside.

There’s a chill in the air, fresh snow on the ground, and I’m craving a seat next to the fireplace, along with a big mug of hot chocolate. Yum!

Technically it’s still autumn, but winter doesn’t care. Happy to disregard the calendar, it has staked a claim on my garden already, and as you can see, the lavender plants are snug as bugs in rugs, tucked happily in the snow.

Left with no choice but to let it go gently into that good night, (with apologies to Dylan Thomas), I’ll switch gears now and focus on the indoor plants.

My tropicals, & succulents especially, must absolutely shudder at the thought the over-attention they’ll now receive all winter long, which is a drastic change from the absolute neglect I offer them spring through fall.

I’m pretty good about not over-watering, so this attention, (a smidge of OCD), mainly includes following the sunshine by moving most of the plants closer to any window that has southern exposure for the day, trimming leaves, repotting, and the like.

I cram many of them on our dining room table and kitchen counter so they can catch some rays on brighter days, which my family thankfully ignores because they’re used to it by now.

Except for our cat, who sometimes seems quite annoyed at the lack of space she has to stretch out. As cats will do, she pays it forward by chewing, and flicking some of the foliage with her long sharp claws that may invade her territory.

And, look out in February when seed starting season is upon us. Available space at those southern windows shrinks drastically when trays containing my future vegetable garden start sprouting in small, hand-made newspaper pots.

However, it’s still November. Time to end this post, practice some serious Hygge, make that hot chocolate, (with mini-marshmallows), grab a good book, get cozy by the fire, and settle in for the season.

Have a good week! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

Lithops – Nature’s living stones

Lithops, also known as living or flowering stones, are native to the dry regions of South Africa.

In their natural environment, Lithops receive less than 2 inches of rainfall per month throughout the entire year. They could not survive these harsh regions if not for their capacity to store water.

Because these succulents survive under such arid conditions, watering should be minimal and infrequent.

They are dormant during the summer so too much water will cause them to rot. I wouldn’t recommend planting them in an enclosed terrarium either as they will surely die a quick death!

They are ideal houseplants as long as there is adequate light. As houseplants, they require at least 3 hours of direct sunlight. Southern exposure is best.

Lovely in an open table top dish garden, group a few together, add sand, pebbles, and even seashells to mimic their natural environment.

 

Cacti, succulents, and other houseplants basking in spring sunshine – Wordless Wednesday

Poinsettia – Not my favorite holiday plant, but they do get a bum rap.

 Having worked at flower shop for many years in Toronto, I’ve had my fill of poinsettias. 
(Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Having said that, even though they’re not my favourite plant, (I’m more keen on other varieties in the euphorbia family), they do get a bum rap every holiday season.

Why the bad reputation?

Because contrary to popular opinion, Poinsettias can be irritating, but they’re not fatal.

Your pets & children might get a rash or an upset tummy if they eat a leaf, but it won’t kill them. That’s a fact. But I still don’t suggest eating them in any case!

I have other reasons for not liking them.  First of all they’re susceptible to white fly which is practically impossible to eradicate. The little buggers spread to other plants too, especially hibiscus, but that’s another story for another post.

They also wilt at the drop of a hat. A cold draft will knock them unconscious, so don’t place them near a front door or heat vent, even if they look good on your hall table. Put some greens and branches in a vase instead.

Also, they’re rarely watered properly – People kill with kindness. Waterlogged soil lacks sufficient air, which drowns roots. These plants, when exposed to high light and low humidity, require more frequent watering, but never water if the soil feels wet. Too much water will cause leaves to curl and fall off.

So in my humble opinion, the poor things never look as good as they do in the flower shop… Obviously I won’t be popular with any florists/growers out there, but that’s okay.

So, even though I don’t particularly like poinsettias, one does have to defend something one’s not exactly thrilled about when truth has been turned into a false myth.

Still keen on a poinsettia? Go for it! I wish you success!

However I’d suggest choosing an alternative plant for the holidays … azaleas and cyclamens are gorgeous this time of year. Succulents are perfect for any occasion, especially if you’re going away. They like to be neglected any time of year!

And, doesn’t it just feel good to go against the grain sometimes?


Happy Holidays!