Grow it! Container Gardens

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Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2014 11:29 am

If the answer to this question is negative, don’t despair. Even the hardiest gardeners have been tempted to throw their gardening gloves into the compost pile due to the dual challenges of the prolonged Texas drought and the unusually harsh winter.

Spring arrives as reliable as daffodils, irises, redbuds and dogwoods when it comes to re-blooming. Every year, spring gardens begin as blank canvases. One of the easiest ways to welcome the return of spring is to fill containers with plants. Container gardening does not require digging, can be done even in the smallest spaces, and provides an instant splash of color in an otherwise drab landscape. Flowers, herbs and vegetables can all thrive in suitable contain-ers.

The first step is to decide what you want to plant and then to choose the right container.

“The containers can be as varied as the plants you place in them,” says Bell County Master Gardener Beverly Wickersham. Glazed ceramic pots are an excellent choice because they don’t deteriorate in freezing weather or dry out quickly. They are more expensive than other choices, such as clay or plastic pots. Unglazed clay pots allow evaporation of moisture from the soil, which will require more frequent watering during summer. Wood containers are also good choices, if you are careful to choose ones that have not been treated with toxic compounds.

Many creative gardeners select unusual items, such as boxes or bowls, to show off their plants. The size of the container should be between 15 and 120 quarts. Pots that are too small will restrict root growth and require more frequent watering. All containers should have several drainage holes, and larger pots may require wheeled pot holders to make moving them easier.

Soil mix is equally important. A good brand of potting soil that is fairly lightweight and porous will work well for most varieties. Plants should be fertil-ized with water-soluble fertilizer every two or three weeks after they are planted. Check soil dryness frequently and water as needed. A new gardening trend is using succulents, which do not require fertilizer or frequent watering. These plants require potting soil specifically for succulents.

Plants also have different requirements for light. Be sure to consider whether your containers need shade or full or partial sunlight. Keep in mind that even plants that require “full sun” may need a little relief from afternoons in the broiling Texas heat.

If you garden in an area with deer, container-gardening may be a welcome solution for avoiding their hearty appetites. Plants can flourish in hanging baskets elevated out of the reach of hungry deer.

Whichever plants and containers you choose, you’ll find a pleasant reward for the promise of spring.

Beverly Wickersham recommends the following plants for container gardens in Central Texas:

Perennial Herbs

Chives

Mint

Thyme

Fennel

Marjoram

Sage

Oregano

Biennial Herbs

Parsley

Annual Flowers

Geranium

Marigold

Nasturtium

Pansy

Petunias

Salvia Verbena

Zinnia

Bulbs

(spring planted)

Begonia

Dahlia

Gladiolus

Oriental Lily

Asiatic Lily

Vegetables

Carrots

Cucumbers

Leaf Lettuce

Green Onions

Tomatoes

Find more gardening tips in Beverly Wickersham’s “Tips of the Week” series, reprinted in a colorful 330-page book, 16th Anniversary Collection–1997 to 2013, and recently published by Spectrum Printing for the Bell County Master Gardeners Association.

Visit the demonstration gardens at the AgriLife Extension Office, 1605 N. Main Street in Belton, to see a large display of various plants suited for Central Texas and an assortment of succulents in containers.

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