Fall Gardening

Published on Thu, Sep 18, 2003
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Fall Gardening

Container gardening adds convenience, creativity

During the past few years, the container gardening trend has grown and flourished. Busy people want gardens that are quick, easy to maintain and provide immediate decoration.

Container gardening is the solution for everything from patios in high-rise apartment buildings to spacious decks surrounding suburban homes. Container gardening lets creativity blossom. While pre-fabricated gardening containers are available at garden centers, the fun lies in finding unique items that fit an outdoor decorating style. Anything that can be filled with soil and has a good drain makes an ideal container. Watering cans, wash tubs, wheel barrels and antique coal buckets are great examples.

The right plant combination is next. Traditional landscaping rules apply to container gardening. Planting in odd numbers and using a combination of structure, form and color are important steps in designing containers. The structure comes from plants with height and gives the container an airy, fresh look. The form is in the trailing items that drape over the edge of the container and color is provided by flowers.

Even the smallest patio, porch or window can boast a crop of vegetables or a garden of flowers in containers. Planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets and large flowerpots are just some of the containers that can be used. The container gardener is limited only by his imagination. Consider the following guidelines when choosing your container.
� Avoid containers with narrow openings or cheap plastic pots that may deteriorate in UV sunlight and terracotta pots which dry out rapidly. Glazed ceramic pots are excellent choices but require several drainage holes.
� Wooden containers are susceptible to rot. Redwood and cedar are relatively rot resistant and can be used without staining or painting. Avoid wood treated with creosote, penta or other toxic compounds since the vapors can damage the plants. One advantage of wooden containers is that they can be built to sizes and shapes that suit the location.
� Use containers between 15 and 120 quarts capacity. Small pots restrict the root area and dry out very quickly. The size and number of plants to be grown will determine the size of the container used. Deep rooted vegetables require deep pots.
� Make sure your pot has adequate drainage. Holes should be 1/2 inch across. Line the base of the pot with newspaper to prevent soil loss.
� In hot climates use light-colored containers to lessen heat absorption and discourage uneven root growth.
� Set containers on bricks or blocks to allow free drainage.
� Line hanging baskets with shagnum moss for water retention. Keep baskets away from afternoon sun.

If you choose clay pots, remember that clay is porous and water is lost from the sides of the container. Plants in clay pots should be monitored closely for loss of moisture.

Make sure your planting medium drains rapidly but retains enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist. Your compost will make an excellent potting soil. Check the requirements of the plants you grow to determine whether you will need to add sand. If compost is not available, purchase a good quality potting mixture or make your own from equal parts of sand, loamy garden soil, and peat moss. Commercial potting mixes are usually slightly acidic, so you may want to add a little lime.

Most container gardeners have found that a �soilless� potting mix works best. In addition to draining quickly, �soilless� mixes are lightweight and free from soil- borne diseases and weed seeds. These mixes can be purchased from garden centers.

When you add your soil to your container, leave a two inch space between the top of the soil and the top of the container. You will be able to add 1/2 inch or so of mulch later.

Your container garden will need at least five hours of light each day, and many plants will benefit from even more. As a general rule, leafy vegetables such as cabbage and lettuce can tolerate the most shade, while root crops such as beets and carrots will need more sun. Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers need the most sun. The amount of light needed by flowers varies depending on the varieties grown.

Since potting mixes drain water rapidly, fertilizer will be washed out of the container as you water. Lighter mixes will require more frequent fertilizing than heavier mixes. It�s a good idea to use a dilute liquid fertilizer with every other watering.

Liquid fish emulsion or liquid seaweed are great plant boosters, but remember that you need to provide your plants with a variety of nutrients. Check the labels on the products in your garden center to be sure that they contain a complete, balanced solution that includes trace elements.

In an exposed location, container plants lose moisture quickly. Some plants will need to be watered daily, especially during hot, dry weather.

Annuals suitable for containers include: Alyssum - Carpet of Snow, Royal Carpet, Rosie O'Day; Begonia (Wax) - Glamour, White Christmas, Othello; Browallia - Blue Bells; Geraniums - Most varieties; Marigolds - Dwarf French, Panther, Queen Sophia, Boy Series; and Pansies - Swiss Giant.

Local businesses, individuals awarded in competition

The winners of the 18th annual Whatcom County in Bloom competition were released on September 4 during a ceremony held at the Whatcom County courthouse. The competition has a variety of categories that residents, businesses and organizations can enter their gardens in.

Judges are sent out to each of the gardens entered throughout the summer and those gardens with the highest scores win in their categories.
• The Semiahmoo Resort Association was awarded first place for �Entrance with a Sign.� The flower garden is a circular display and located at the resort�s entrance. Allan Tozier, SRA maintenace supervisor and his assistants Martin Lagasse and Jeff Kennedy were responsible for the display.
� The Birch Bay Leisure Park was awarded second place for �Entrance with a Sign.�
� Birch Bay Leisure Park was also awarded first place in office complexes. � The Port of Bellingham - Blaine public promenade was awarded first place in public agencies.
� Bruce Rowell, an employee at Green Acres Memorial Park for 32 years, has won numerous awards for Best Floral Park in Whatcom County. And this year, was awarded first place for best individual business.

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