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Living Space: Short on space for a garden? Containerize

By By Kathryn Weber
May 8, 2014 at 12:08 a.m.

Most plants can grow in containers, from shrubs to flowers, vegetables, herbs, cacti and  even water plants.

One of the best ways to satisfy a need to garden when you don't have much space is to create container gardens. When temperatures warm up, container gardens can bring bright splashes of color to even a tiny patio, porch or balcony, doorway or flight of steps.

If you're a gourmet cook, having a ready supply of herbs ensures your dishes will be bright and flavorful. A similar simple set of guidelines will keep your pots producing, your plants beautiful and your home freshened with a touch of nature year-round.

Containerize

Most plants can grow in containers - from shrubs to flowers, vegetables to herbs or cacti to water plants. Adding some potted plants to your patio will make the space more welcoming. They're also portable and easy to reposition, rearrange or alter based on available light.

There are a few key things to know about container gardens:

First, they need roomy pots. Larger pots allow a plant to grow into the pot rather than outgrowing the container early in the season. However, don't be tempted to put a tiny plant in a large pot. Buy full, lush plants and place them in containers with room to add soil and space to expand and grow. To make your pots look full and lush, think fill, spill and thrill.

You may want to choose a hardy, versatile plant to thrill, such as a dwarf banana or canna lily that grows full, tall and features vibrant flowers. The fill part of the pot might be an under planting of a colorful coleus, and the spill could be a trailing plant such as sweet potato vine. What's important is to make sure all the plants have the same water and light needs. Check with a local nursery for combinations that work well for your area and lighting.

Instant garden

Today's urban gardeners can select from a huge variety of vegetables ranging from peppers to cucumbers that can thrive in containers. Just remember to provide plenty of water, fertilizer and sunlight to help them grow and produce. If you enjoy herbs, mint, thyme, dill, rosemary, parsley and basil are summertime favorites that are easy to grow. To speed things along, buy good-sized plants so you'll get vegetables sooner. Most seeds can take 60 or more days to mature - a long time to wait before you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Good soil is another critical factor. If you're gone a lot or live in a hot area, look for moisture-control potting soil that doesn't need frequent watering. Burpee.com, an Internet seed company, recommends placing two or three plants in a large pot versus individual plants in small containers.

Drainage is also important. All containers should drain excess water away, so plants are never left standing in water.

And don't be afraid to mix things up. Try making a planter with nasturtiums that spill over the side and pair them with an upright herb such as rosemary or basil.

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, redlotusletter.com.

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