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Create a colorful container garden on a patio or deck

POSTED: April 4, 2014 1:00 a.m.

Container gardening, hanging baskets and window boxes can be a fun and rewarding to those who only have a patio, deck or balcony.

Containers add visual interest to a small garden area and enhance other features in a home setting, such as entertainment areas with pools and cook-out areas.

Good soil and drainage are important when planting in containers, hanging baskets and window boxes. Make sure the container has adequate drainage holes because poorly drained containers could result in root-rotting fungi and possibly death to the plants. Also, make sure the soil used is a good commercial potting mixture, which when blended with organic matter like composted pine bark, along with vermiculite or peat moss, will improve drainage and aeration. Garden soil is not recommended for containers because it can contain diseases and pests and the soil may not drain as well.

Mix fertilizer with your potting soil when planting. It contains essential elements needed for plant growth. A 5-10-15 or 5-10-10 fertilizer is usually fine or you can buy a potting soil with a slow-release fertilizer in it. Also fertilize the containers every month.

Site selection is as important as good soil and drainage. Select plants for their sun/shade requirements for the desired areas you want to use.

Remember containers can dry out very quickly, especially in the hotter months. Daily watering may be necessary at times, so check them. Watering wands are a good tool for difficult-to-reach containers, baskets and boxes.

Once the soil, drainage, site and water elements are taken care of, the fun and creative side of container potting can begin.

Trees and shrubs, either deciduous or evergreens, can be the focal point in big containers. Ornamental, specimen trees such as Japanese maples and dwarf evergreens can make a stunning display in a large container. Add some annual or perennial color around the tree, with some spillover plants, to create a beautiful container display.

When mixing plants, try to have a tall central plant surrounded by lower plants. If you have room, use a draping plant to hang over the side. A good example would be a dwarf cypress or Japanese maple for height, add colorful begonias and geraniums around them and draping English ivy over the sides. The flowing pattern is pleasing to the eye in scale and contrast.

As an added bonus, I like to plant bulbs early in containers. Depending on the time of year, it is always refreshing to see the bulbs begin to shoot up between the other plants.

The types of containers are endless. Hanging baskets and window boxes also can create visual interest around your home. Remember most of the time, these types of containers will be viewed from below, so hang them close to eye level where they can be admired and watered easily. Window boxes should extend the entire width of a window for the best appearance.

Purchase small healthy plants and locate them close together in baskets and boxes. Include various shapes and textures. One single color theme or two complimentary colors works well.

Use your imagination in selecting plants. Many annuals, vines, herbs and even vegetables will thrive in them.

I recommend three to five containers matching in shape and color and then fine tune the look to the square footage. Also choose your preference in color and texture for the desired appearance. Avoid lots of small pots, which tend to look cluttered and unbalanced.

Call the extension office for a list of suitable plants to use, or look through some garden magazines for some ideas to use. Creating colorful containers full of textures and shapes is a fun and easy way to beautify your small-space garden area.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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