Summer brings a kind of complacency to the garden. The burst of growth and planting chores that ushers in spring has come and gone. The Midwestern heat has started to sear the lawn, and it's not yet time to harvest produce and plant spring bulbs. It's that lazy, hazy garden time. Break out of the doldrums by planting a container or two or three or four.
What's a Container?
Containers can be anything from a plastic or ceramic pot to a concrete planter. Some are whimsical, like a wooden wine box, a mailbox, or even a boot. Some are there already, like a hollowed out tree stump. Some are discarded, but still interesting objects, such an old wheelbarrow. Look for interesting vintage containers at estate sales and flea markets. Stone and tin planters are particularly popular at these sales. Your only limit in finding suitable containers is your imagination.
Plants for Containers
Containers are ideal for flowers and vegetables. Plant radishes, lettuces, herbs, and even eggplant in containers. Tropical flowers and trees are good choices for mid-summer containers. They thrive in the hot sun and are ready to move inside once the evenings turn chilly. Annuals, such as the shade-loving Impatiens and sun-loving Petunias are good candidates for containers, as are Snapdragons, Alyssium, and Geraniums. Combine tall, short, and creeping plants for interest. Vary their textures and shapes.
A container herb garden is ideal for an apartment balcony. Plant a wine box with Rosemary, Oregano, Sage, Lavender, and Thyme for a fragrant, useful, and pretty planter. A cool weather winter container is lovely with an evergreen, such as a dwarf Alberta Spruce, surrounded by rosemary and creeping Juniper. Place it by the entryway. You can even decorate the tree for the holidays.
Caring for Your Container
Container plants require frequent watering, even multiple waterings a day in very hot weather. Because they are exposed to the elements on all sides, they tend to dry out much quicker than do plants in the ground. Make sure that your container has good drainage. If necessary, drill several small holes in the bottom. Use a container planting mix and add some pebbles or sand to the bottom of the pot for improved drainage.
Most containers will need to be transferred indoors for the winter in all but the most tropical climate zones. Don't get surprised by a sudden frost. Begin in September to take the containers in at night, or, if they are large and cumbersome, take them in then for good.
Advantages of a Container Plant
One of the best features of container plants is that they are mobile. If you don't like where you put it, just pick it up and move it somewhere else. They also can be moved around to accommodate the changing seasonal sun patterns. Need a little color in the corner of the mixed border, move a container there.
Containers can cheer up a garden as well as give you a fun gardening project in the middle of that hazy summer. There's no right or wrong combination of container plants and no right or wrong item to use as a container. Use your imagination, experiment a little, and enjoy your mobile garden.