Brighten Patios with Container Gardens

no thumb?

As a renter, you want everything to be portable. That’s the beauty behind container gardens. Even the smallest patio or porch can boast a crop of vegetables or a garden of flowers in containers. To create a container garden on a patio start with large planters or whiskey barrels (just make sure there are holes in the bottom for drainage), says Rebecca Kolls, a master gardener and host of the nationally syndicated TV series “Rebecca’s Garden.” “Everything can be planted in a pot,” she says. Consider the following guidelines when choosing your container.

  • Cheap plastic containers may deteriorate in UV sunlight and terracotta pots dry out rapidly. Glazed ceramic containers are excellent choices but require several drainage holes.
  • Use containers between 15 and 120 quarts capacity. Small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly. The size and number of plants to be grown will determine the size of the container used. Deep rooted vegetables require deep pots.
  • Make sure your pot has adequate drainage. Holes should be 1/2 inch across. Line the base of the pot with newspaper to prevent soil loss.
  • Set containers on bricks or blocks to allow free drainage.
  • Line hanging baskets with sphagnum moss for water retention. Keep baskets away from afternoon sun.

Kolls suggests using whiskey barrels and going with a theme: a salsa garden with tomatoes, cilantro and hot peppers; a vegetable garden with beans and carrots; or even an organic lettuce patch with several leafy varieties.

For climbing plants such as tomatoes and beans, bamboo poles can provide some structure. Kolls advises mixing plants of differing heights and textures to give a professional look. Include tall plants to give shape, shorter plants to fill in and something that spreads to spill out over the sides. Look for colors that complement each other and pack the containers. “You can always take plants out in a month if it’s too full,” she says.

Hanging pots are ideal for herbs, Kolls says. Just like any other container, look for a combination of plants in complementary colors and different textures and sizes. You can also get the pots that hang tomatoes upside down to save space.

Remember, you are in Florida! Place a lemon or banana tree on your terrace in a large planting container.

Now, let’s talk about soil. Make sure your planting medium drains rapidly but retains enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist. Your compost will make an excellent potting soil. Check the requirements of the plants you grow to determine whether you will need to add sand. If compost is not available, purchase a good quality potting mixture or make your own from equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil, and peat moss. Commercial potting mixes are usually slightly acidic, so you may want to add a little lime.

Most container gardeners have found that a “soilless” potting mix works best. In addition to draining quickly, “soilless” mixes are lightweight and free from soil- borne diseases and weed seeds. These mixes can be purchased from garden centers. When you add your soil to your container, leave a 2 inch space between the top of the soil and the top of the container. You will be able to add 1/2 inch or so of mulch later.

Your garden will need at least five hours of sun a day. Container plants lose moisture quickly in exposed areas; so many plants will need to be watered daily.

As renters, you will find your container garden very fulfilling. We hope you will stay many years with us, and the only aspect of container gardening that you will use, is moving the containers around to rearrange the colors!

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