Container Gardening 101

Container gardening is a great way to grow flowers, herbs and even some vegetables in a small space. Containers come in all different shapes and sizes; they can be plastic, cement or ceramic; and they come in a variety of colors.

Here are some ideas I've used successfully in my container garden.

Bulbs and spring flowers

One of the nicest ways to utilize a container is to plant bulbs and spring flowers in the fall. Now, as I've said before, spring bulbs are really something that are the most effective in gardens that have winter temperatures that dip below freezing.

This is what I do with bulbs in my containers. In the fall, I'll take a variety of bulbs like daffodils and tulips and grape hyacinth and I'll plant them deep in the container. Check your bulb packet to see how deeply you should be planting them.

Then, to top off the container, I plant pansies. Pansies are a kind of flower that can easily go from fall to spring without having to re-plant.

Even if you live in the harshest winters, you can still plant pansies in the fall and throw a load of mulch over them for heavy winters. Your spring garden will overflow with pansies starting to bounce back and you'll have pretty color around your tall bulb stems.

If you love tulips and live in an area populated with moles, voles and squirrels, container planting is the answer. Interplant them with daffodils and hyacinth for a gorgeous display.

Herbs and Annual Flowers

Another terrific application for container gardening is to grow herbs and annuals in them.

I love to plant window and deck boxes with colorful varieties of annuals, herbs that I use frequently in cooking and bunches of trailing plants like licorice and ivy. Just remember that window and deck boxes will dry out much faster because they are more shallow than other containers. Use a good water retention potting mix and keep an eye on dryness in the heat of the summer. Water in the early morning for best retention.

Look for colors that not only go well together but complete your landscape ..

Container Vegetable Gardening

I have grown vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, peas and bush beans in containers and raised beds. Sometimes, I've even grown them in between flowers and bulbs and this gives your container some texture and makes things interesting as well as being useful.

If you'd like to grow tomatoes in a container and your space is limited, make sure you choose a container large enough to hold a couple of plants. Use tomato stakes and garden Velcro to keep everything upright and growing well. You can find tomato containers that are self-watering in home centers, catalogs and on the Net. They're great for a deck or patio.

And, when growing tomatoes in a container, spring for an extra one – they're not pricey and should last many seasons – so you can rotate your tomatoes year to year.