No soil? No space? No problem. Just create a garden in pots or containers at ground or eye level. Do you have only a small area to garden such as a townhouse yard or apartment patio? Maybe you just want to brighten your deck or front porch. Any area can be made into a pretty garden by following these simple guidelines.
Start by choosing a container or making a planter. Townhouse yards can be made to feel private and cozy by placing raised bed planters on your property line. Line the bottom with damp newsprint, make sides with landscape timbers and fill with soil. Follow the guidelines below, but for more fullness in a larger planter, use quart or gallon sized transplants. To make it easier to tend, make the raised bed four feet wide or less so you can reach across it. For above ground, planters can be anything from commercial clay or plastic pots to the rusted, bent watering can in the garage. Unique vessels only need to hold four to six inches of soil and be able to drain excess water.
Fill the container with a lightweight soil mixture containing perlite or vermiculite. Remember that soil in above ground pots will dry out quickly so add a small amount of water-absorbing polymers to the container arrangements to help retain moisture between waterings. Adding a teaspoon of time-release fertilizer to the soil will help get transplants off to a good start. Both of these products can be found at most garden centers. Follow label directions for amounts to add. Finally, top the soil with a layer of mulch to minimize moisture loss.
Choosing plants is fun, but can be overwhelming. Before going out to buy, make a list of a few important things. Know how much sun or shade each container will receive. Have an idea of what colors you'd like to use. Take a few magazine pictures of plants or combinations you admire. At the nursery, literally put flowers you like next to each other. Then read their tags to be sure sun and water requirements match. From that selection, choose plants that have three or four different maximum heights. Place a tall, spiky plant in the middle or back of your arrangement, surround it with middle sizers, and then place trailing plants around the edges. This will give your containers a lush, symmetrical look. Apply a small amount of fertilizer mixed with water each week. You will be rewarded with a colorful, full garden all summer long.
For more information on container gardening call the Larimer County Office of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension at 970-498-6000. You may also call Planttalk Colorado toll free at 1-888-666-3063 and listen to recording #1001- Container Gardening Basics.
Q: Can I put my new tomato plants in the garden the day I buy them?
A: It is best to "harden off" most tomato plants before planting them outside. This will allow the plants time to adjust to the colder temperatures. Start by leaving them outside for a few hours each day lengthening this time outdoors gradually until planting day.
Q: How do I know which lawn care product is best for my yard and why is there such a variation in price?
A: Lawn care products can vary in the amount and type of fertilizer they contain. In addition, some have coatings so the active ingredients are released over time or with moisture. Often bags have the same exact ingredients but you pay less for simpler packaging. Educating yourself about the type of grass you have and identifying the weeds that are a problem will help you make educated choices. Call the Larimer County Cooperative Extension Office at 970-498-6000 and request Fact Sheet #3.100 - Broadleaf Weed Controls in Lawns, #3.101 - Control of Weedy Grasses in Home Lawns, and #7.202 - Lawn Care.
The authors have received training through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension's Master Gardener program and is a Master Gardener volunteer for Larimer County.
Gardening and Insect Fact Sheets are available on-line by clicking HERE.
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