Have you ever browsed a nursery when you spy on some specimens that you simply can’t resist but realize on the labels that they require cultivation conditions that you can’t provide?
For example, you’ll see some beautiful annual flowers that require full sunshine and well-drained soil, but none of these in flower beds. Or maybe you crave the taste of your own home-grown tomatoes, but you know you can’t give them the gentle, loving care they need because their vegetable garden is too far from home.
In this and many other situations, you may want to consider growing the plants in pots and other pots. Container gardening can have a number of advantages over ground-based gardening, as it allows you to extend the growing season or control the temperature by moving pots to different areas, better manage soil structure, moisture and nutrient content, and easily spot pest and disease control. These are just some of the benefits you can find from using this gardening method.
Let’s start with the vegetables. As with all container plants, good, light potting soil should be used. In the case of vegetables, it is advantageous to mix a slow-release, low-nitrogen fertilizer before planting. Many gardeners I know recommend growing vegetables in irrigation pots that hold a spout at the bottom of the reservoir to which the water is added. That way you will never overwater and your roots will grow vigorously and deeply. You can place the container in a location that meets the special needs of the particular plant. Better yet, place the pot on wheels and bring your plants into the garage or shed on nights when frost is expected. Vegetables placed on board or on the patio will be convenient for controlling diseases such as early emergencies or pests such as aphids.
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Now let’s move on to ornamental plants and the choice of pots and containers. If you plan to leave your pots outside during our frosty winters, I recommend Vietnamese ceramic pots and have always used them. Stone containers are frost tolerant and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but are quite heavy. Plastics can break cold, and so can terracotta. Whichever tank you choose, make sure there is a drain hole at the bottom.
Get creative – many garden and household items can become plant containers. Your child’s old red car looks radiant, and it looks whimsical when it’s full of annuals like petunia and oregano – yes, you can mix herbs with flowers. Or find an old coat rack, place it on your patio, and hang baskets or old purses full of flowers and herbs on your arm. Colorful vegetables like ruby chard and purple turnip are sweet and edible.
Don’t worry too much if the plant’s label says “full day”. In northern Arizona, we get more intense rays of light than those in other parts of the country, so five hours of sunlight may be enough.
As spring arrives in the summer, you can easily replace its potted, cool-season annual flowers, such as pansies, with heat-tolerant varieties such as lantana and zinnia. And vice versa, replace your gay-loving cosmos with delicious nasturcia and variegated thyme or parsley as summer brings in autumn. Of course, whenever a pot seems to be struggling with too much sunshine, heat, cold, or shade, simply move it to a more desirable location. In addition, the frosty cloth protects the plants quite well, especially on cold nights.
Winter-hardy trees and shrubs can also be grown in pots. I had a deer antler (Rhus typhina) in a fake half-wine barrel that bloomed for years. Its leaves changed from bright green to rusty orange at the end of the summer. My potted dwarf Alberta spruce on one side of the garage door served a welcome green year-round for guests parked on the driveway. The evergreen ‘Little Giant’ arborvitae and some other thuja species form beautiful potted plants, but during our harsh, sunny winters, additional water and often some shade may be needed.
If watered regularly and fertilized occasionally, I think you will find that container gardening solves many gardening problems in addition to beautifying your patio, patio, or landscaping.
Cindy Murray is a biologist, co-editor of Coconino Master Gardener and Gardening Etc. We have several opportunities to take the Coconino Master Gardener course in 2021. For more information, visit https://extension.arizona.edu/coconino-master-gardener. Gardening, etc. our co-editors are happy to answer your gardening questions in this section. Send your questions and topics to email@example.com or contact the Master Gardener Hotline at 928-773-6115.