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Maximize A Minimal Space With Container Gardening

Love gardening, but don't have a lot of space? With a little creativity - and a few containers - it's easy to transform your outdoor living spaces into a functional, beautiful garden area.

Container gardening is gardening in small spaces. Flowers in containers liven up a deck or porch. Containers are mobile. Move them as they grow and the season changes. Containers conserve water.

The first step is to pick the container. The choices are abundant. Pick glazed pottery to match the deck furniture. Use terra cotta for a natural look. Plastic pots molded to look like southwest style pottery. Wooden troughs or barrels stained to match the deck. Over the years we’ve built up an eclectic collection. A little bit of all of the styles.

Second is the soil. Any potting soil will do. Some dry out quicker than others, some are heavier than others. Match the soil to the plants you are using. Try a couple types until you find the one that fits your watering technique.

Use polymers to stretch the water you use. Polymers are crystals that turn into a water holding gel. They keep the soil moisture more consistent and conserve water. Some potting soils already have polymers mixed in.

Next is the fun part, the plants. Color, texture, shape and size are the palette of the container garden. Contrasting colors create a dramatic planting. Complementary colors blend and flow.

Traditional spikes offer an upright sharp texture. Grasses can do the same. Plants with large leaves add tropical texture. A mix of tiny leaves or flowers are contrasts to large-leafed plants.  A rule of thumb is to not use anything taller than twice the height of the container.

The bigger the container, the bigger plants you can use. In pots 18 inches or more in diameter, small shrubs or trees can be planted. They’ll need protection to get them through the winter.

Window-box planters can be used on deck railings. They add color and privacy to our outdoor eating area. Large container gardens are scattered around the patio. Smaller containers fit on the front porch. A couple of shade-loving containers fit into the shady corner bed.

Some veggies love containers. Basil and peppers love the warm roots containers provide. Bush tomatoes thrive in sunny spots. Mix veggies and flowers for eye catching, tasty containers. Try a few easily maintained container gardens.

Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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