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Tired of Waiting! Instant Garden! Container Plants!

by Lorrie Redman
In the mountains, we always have to wait for the snow to clear, soil to warm up, and frost to end.  I admit I am impatient and always have to find ways to garden before these events occur.  I overcome my frustration by growing seedlings, potting Christmas bulbs, nurturing micro greens, and watering houseplants.

Come May though, I can’t control my need to garden and I want an instant garden.  My solution is container planting.  I can design, shop, plant and enjoy my mini gardens all in one day. 

My three favorite mini gardens are shade containers, perennial containers, and herb containers.
Container garden by Lorrie Redman
      Shade Containers add lots of color to problem areas that are hard to grow annuals in. I can add a container under a tree and bring interest and height in those spots that nothing else grows.  Plants I like to use are begonias, coleus and, impatiens.  There are so many new varieties to choose from and they have similar water and sun needs.

      Perennial Containers are wonderful because you get more for your money. You can enjoy them on your deck or patio all summer and then replant them into your regular garden in the fall.  Plants I love to combine are salvias, rudbeckias, yarrows and lavenders.  

      Herb Containers are edible and fragrant additions to your living space.  Who doesn’t love to cook your favorite pasta sauce and grab a few basil leaves for flavor or chop up cilantro into your homemade salsa?  With herbs, I love to use one herb per pot so I can control my plants watering needs.  Then I group the containers together for a variety of textures and heights. 

Container gardens do have some special considerations to think about before you plant.  They include:
Perennial garden photo by Lorrie Redman
Choosing a Container:
    Any container can be used but it must have good drainage and drainage holes so your plants do not become waterlogged.
    If choosing edible plants make sure the container is not made with toxic materials. 
    Porous materials such as clay and wood need to be watered more often than non-porous materials like ceramic, plastic, and metal containers.  Porous materials do offer more air circulation into the root zone. 

    Choose soil mixes that are free of insects, disease and weed seeds. It is recommended that you change out your soil yearly.
    Native soils are not recommended since they compact easily and prevent oxygen from getting to the root systems.
    Soil mixes vs soilless mixes tend to have some of the same ingredients but soilless mixes tend to be lighter. Research your plants to determine which medium is better for your choice of plants.
 Watering and Fertilizing:
    These are problem areas for containers. Container do require more watering and fertilizing than your regular gardens. 
    Containers tend to lose moisture faster since they are above ground and the number of plants in such a small space increases the need for more regular fertilization.
    Letting your pots dry out completely is not recommended since the finer roots will die and your plants will suffer.
    Even if you add slow release fertilizers to your soil mix it is recommended in Colorado to use additional soluble fertilizers to feed your plants.
    With increased watering and fertilizing good drainage is also necessary to reduce salt build up from added fertilizers.  Recommendations include draining your saucers often and having containers that accommodate the root depth of your plants.  

Now go out and create your own instant garden!

For additional information about container gardening, check out the CSU Extension Fact Sheet Container Gardens.

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