When you visit Moss Mountain Farm, you’ll see that I have container plantings everywhere—on the porch, around the fountain and even in the vegetable and flower gardens. They’re so versatile. Whether you have limited space or you’re trying to do something a little more creative around your garden, containers are the solution. Container gardens can provide pops of color and allow you to add more variety to your garden in spite of space limitations.
Before running off to the garden center, you need to consider five things for successful container gardening:
The size of the container matter. As a general rule, the larger the better. If the container is too small, you won’t have enough soil volume to really support the plants and give them room to grow. Also, look for a container with drainage holes, so that the roots don’t sit in water. I love a classic terra cotta pot, but they are a little fragile, so keep in mind they’ll have to be stored in winter before the temperatures drop below freezing to prevent cracking. Have fun with your containers. Pick ones that are right for the plants but also match your personal style.
You need a good organic garden soil that has been blended for container gardening. It should maintain moisture and at the same time drain well. When you squeeze the soil in your hand and release it, the soil should crumble, not clump. You can even find soil formulated for container gardens with fertilizer included.
You need to make sure your plants are well fed, and fertilizer is the key. It’s like a daily vitamin for your plants because it helps them perform to their full potential. Begin by applying a controlled release fertilizer at the time of planting. Then, mid-season apply a water-soluble fertilizer to really increase your flower power.
Now that you have the container and soil ready, it’s time to choose the best plants for your container garden. You can really use any color combination you like, but to create visual interest, I like to use the thriller, filler and spiller structural concept.
You start with tall thriller plants that add a vertical element to the combination. If your container will be viewed from one side, plant the thriller in the back. If it will be visible from all sides, stick it in the middle. Some of my favorite thrillers are switchgrass, angelonia and coleus.
Next, use more rounded plants as fillers to give the container the look of abundance, such as lantana, spurge and SunPatiens. If the thriller is in the back, place the filler flowers in front of and around the thriller in a U-shape. Otherwise, place them all around the thriller.
Finally, spillers go in. These trailing plants soften the edge of the container and balance the height of the thriller. I like to use sweet alyssum and petunias. Depending on how your container will be viewed, plant a couple of spillers in the front or use several spillers all around the edge of the container.
Now it’s time to water your plants. You want to make sure you’re watering the soil and deep soaking the roots of the plants and not just spraying water over the foliage and the blooms, which can create a breeding ground for disease. That will be no good for the plants and no fun for you.
Knowing when to water is also important. This may seem a little basic but it really works. Simply stick your finger in the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water it. Also, remember that just because one pot needs water, doesn’t mean they all do. Differences in pot and plant sizes will determine how quickly a pot dries out. To take the guess work out of watering, you may consider self-watering planters. I use TruDrop by Crescent Garden around the farm.
Now you can head to the garden center with a plan. Pick out pots and plants that you love, take them home and get your hands dirty. Armed with these simple rules, your container gardens will be the envy of the neighborhood.