Since the dog days of summer are upon us and have probably taken a toll on the beautiful flowers in your garden, why not perk up your summer garden with colorful containers to add some pizzazz.
Besides providing quick color, the great thing about containers is that they can be used and moved anywhere, in sun or shade, and are versatile. They can be placed directly on the ground or on a pedestal; they can be mounted on a windowsill, or hung from your porch.
Containers full of colorful flowers and foliage are also a great way to greet the guests coming for summer parties and barbecues by adding interest to your front entry or patio.
They also provide a chance to try different kinds of plants to see if you like them before you put them in your garden bed on a larger scale.
Pots and planters come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, materials, and styles. And, almost any everyday container can be modified for planting including bowls, baskets, and barrels.
While anything will work, the only necessity is drainage holes. They are essential because without drainage, soil will become waterlogged and your plants will probably die. The size of the holes aren’t as important as making sure there are enough to let excess water drain out. If you have a container without holes that you absolutely feel you must use, consider using it as a cover to hide a plain pot that does have holes.
Other things to consider when selecting containers is to think about your decor, the weight of containers you will use, the flowers that you like, what size will best match what you want to grow in it, the type of material you prefer, and whether you want to plant in the sun or the shade.
Some other tips include:
- Use potting soil, not garden soil because you need a fast draining, yet moisture-retaining soil with a loose structure so roots can grow easily. Also, your garden soil can have disease, pests, etc.
- When adding soil to your container, leave a 2-inch space between the top of the soil and the top of the container if you would like to be able to add a half-inch layer of mulch later. At minimum, leave at least an inch from the top for watering.
- Planting – In general, container grown plants are more effective if placed more closely together than they would be in the ground.
- Place taller plants near the center, add shorter ones around it, and set lower-growing and cascading types around the edge.
- Watering – Containers need more water than plants in the ground and the smaller the container, the quicker it dries out. Check daily, feeling down about an inch to see if soil is moist or not.
- Fertilizer – Because frequent watering causes nutrients to leach out of the soil, you must fertilize regularly. It’s easiest to use a liquid fertilizer once a month. If you want to use an organic liquid fertilizer, try fish emulsion.
- When selecting plants remember that appealing combination containers can be made with plants that are valued for just their foliage and colored foliage will naturally make a mixed container more interesting.
- Some good summer annual flowers for containers include bacopa, dahlia, fuchsia, geranium, zinnia, impatiens, coleus, marigold, alyssum, lobelia, and scabiosa.
Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.