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Cannon: Consider container gardening during the winter
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I am always looking for creative ways to spruce up around my landscape in preparation for winter. There are several ways a gardener can add some visual interest through container gardening outside their homes. What type of container do you want to plant?

Fall is a great time to do some decorative container gardening. Vegetable planting is one way to go and offers many mouthwatering advantages. Also there are many combinations of plants with texture and color to decorate your outside landscapes in a variety of choices. Whether you want to eat from it and simply look at its winter beauty, both can be simple to plant and maintain.

First, the potting mix (not garden soil) is free of insects and diseases, so vegetable transplants available now at your local garden centers get off to a healthy start. You can also move containers away from areas of hot sun, storms or pests into sheltered locations.

You can grow plants longer into fall by protecting them from frost and moving them into sunny locations once the days get cooler and good plant growth has been established. Containers can be placed close to the kitchen where one can easily access the vegetables once they are ready to harvest.

There are many combinations of vegetables that are quick and easy to arrange on a balcony, patio, deck or porch and can be visually appealing as well as productive plantings. Keep them simple and start with transplants of vegetables, herbs and even fall flowers like pansies to decorate your containers.

Don't be afraid to plant close together. Two or three varieties per planter are plenty. Read the tags and make sure your plant combinations have the same similar sunlight conditions and growing habits.

Pansies and ornamental cabbages, mixed with some colorful lettuce varieties make a stunning outside combo.

Plant in large containers with plenty of holes in the bottom for drainage. Drainage is important so the roots won't rot. Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower will grow larger and produce more fruit when roots have room to grow. Also, more water is stored up in a larger vessel. Vegetables that have room to grow in larger containers look better too!

Don't forget to sprinkle in a little plant food and water twice a week to get them started. Spinach is also a good vegetable to plant that provides a good source of vitamins, beta-carotene and iron and makes wonderful salads!

Another plus? Autumn's cool weather and nippy touches can enhance the flavor of your healthy greens like collards, spinach and kale. Create centerpieces with the taller vegetables and plant the flower varieties with pretty petals around the base edge of the containers with colorful pansies, snapdragons and Johnny jump- up violas.

Don't forget small ornamental trees and shrubs can be paired with other plants to create beautiful colors and textures through their bark and foliage.

Pair a red twig dogwood ( beautiful red stems ) or a "Rheingold" arborvitae, with a blue star or blue rug juniper to make a striking container display.

Another combination might be a simple dwarf conifer (evergreen) paired with copper iron pieces such as a dragonfly or hummingbird piece of art. Plant golden wood spurge (Sedum Angelina) and blue pansies to add just the right spark!

Plant an Autumn fern with its coppery and dark green foliage, which will add texture and color to any winter landscape.

Whether you plant some abundant leafy greens and delicious herbs such as garlic, chive or onions, or simply create a container full of beautiful winter interest plants, each will give you visual delight through the colder months and keep your senses alive through a season when everything seems to be dormant.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.

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