Gardening: Halfway through the planting season, weather is perfect

We continue to be in prime planting season across Oklahoma.  2012 is a vintage plant growing season which began several weeks early. We have been blessed with a number of nice, slow rains to stimulate remarkable growth on most of our vegetable and ornamental crops.  One of the fastest growing areas of gardening the last few years has been container gardening.  Container gardens have been popular since long before the Roman Empire and their great planted urns.  Container gardening has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence that shows imagination way beyond urns, old farm tractor tires and hanging baskets.  The containers themselves allow the gardener to make a design statement in addition to the palette of  plants you choose to grow in the containers.  Container gardens empower both homeowners and apartment dwellers.  If you have a patio or deck you can select containers and grow strawberries, flowering annuals, small shrubs, and vegetables to feed your stomach and your soul.

 There are literally thousands of containers you can select to show your personality, fit your design scheme or to make a statement.  There are then thousands of choices of plant material and combinations of plants you can plant to really personalize your container gardens. Selecting the container does require a little more thought than just appreciating the look or design of the container to increase your odds of container gardening success.  The larger and deeper the container, the easier it is to manage the watering, especially as we get into the much drier, summer season. There should be a drainage hole so water does not stand in the root zone.

 Smaller container or hanging baskets up in the air and exposed to more drying winds will need to be watered more often while larger containers will be slower to dry out and require less human attention.  Select a good well drained soil mix to add to your container rather than just filling with topsoil or loam that is often too tight and heavy for container gardening and will not breath and dry out like a good soil mix with sphagnum peat, composted pine bark and other soil amendments.  Any commercial soil mix should be PH corrected to 5.5 to 6.5.  You can add polymers to help keep the mix from drying out so quickly or mycorrhizae to stimulate and colonize natural biological activity in the soil.  Container Gardens, like your garden beds, will benefit from a couple inch layer of bark or hulls mulched over the top of the ground to reduce watering, weeds and to maintain a steady soil temperature.

 Avid gardeners may have up to dozens of container gardens, and love them because they are easier to work since they are literally “planting holes” raised up out of the ground.  They can be moved from front porches to back patios or wherever you want to make an impact when hosting parties or guests.  You can move them by the season or for a single night event. Many folks have adopted the European idea of even setting container gardens in flower beds amongst other plantings to create focal points and to add more heights to the landscape as well as the “sculpture” type impact of the container itself.

 The possibilities are endless so visit your local nursery or garden center and select some preplanted decorative container gardens or hanging baskets.  It can be even more fun to select your own plants to show your container gardening flair planted in the containers you already have or in the new containers that capture your imagination.

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