This Week in the Garden, A Post for my Sister, Chavah by Maxine Rogers
Container gardens are a great idea for a limited space or for decorating an outdoor living space. I have to be careful how many pots of plants I have because they take up a lot more time and attention than plants in the ground. Hanging baskets are notorious for this, usually requiring water several times each day.
The gardener also has to consider what will happen if they need to go away for a couple of days in the summer. A couple of days of hot sun and no water, or even not enough, will kill any plant in a container garden unless you happen to have a plantation of cactus and even they will not like it.
With container gardens, less is more. A lot of people plant the containers up and water them but never think to feed the plants. I see this all the time with scraggly geraniums languishing in pots. How would you like to be on a perpetual fast while you are trying to grow? I doubt there is very much nutrient in commercial potting soil. Even my good, home-made potting soil needs a boost.
I had a 93-year old flower gardener to tea on my porch last year. She greatly admired my pot of purple geraniums. I know they are zonal pelargoniums but let’s stick with the common name for now. She, a famous gardener, had never seen the like. My geraniums were a solid carpet of blooms. My husband had brought them from the grocery store.
The plants he brought home were shrivelled and sickly looking. My husband said he had picked the best ones. I guess the truck carrying them got held up somewhere. They were in terrible shape. When a container is as dry as that, there is no point pouring water on it. The water will not soak in. I put the pot in a bucket and added water to the bucket until the container was floating in water. Over the course of an hour or so, the pot absorbed enough water to sink. When it was well and truly hydrated, I took the pot out to drain.
From then on, I babied the geraniums, watered them liberally and twice a week, I gave them a strong shot of liquid fertilizer. I use human urine diluted half and half with water. Human urine is very clean stuff. It comes out of the kidneys perfectly clean and ready for use as fertilizer. You don’t have to use human urine and can spend your money on bottled fertilizer from the Plant Nursery but remember urine is always there and always free so you can use it in a pinch. I have yet to find a plant that does not love human urine and thrives on it. The human urine trick is what the growers of giant vegetables use for fertilizer.
A nice container garden you could put together now for spring could consist of a half barrel or other large pot half filled with potting soil. I make my own by mixing finished compost and sand. I had a recipe but don’t use it anymore as I know what good potting soil looks like.
Once you have the pot half full, add 12 to 15 tulip bulbs near the centre of the pot. The soil should be deep enough that the tulips are about 10 inches from the top of the pot. I like the species tulips; they are the wildflowers modern tulips were bred from Species tulips are very pretty, very hardy and naturalize (reproduce) instead of dying off.
After the tulips, add some soil so the tips of the tulips are just showing and add 12 to 5 hyacinth bulbs in a ring around the tulip bulbs. Add 3 to 4 more inches of soil and add up to 25 crocus bulbs. Sprinkle some chinodoxia bulbs in with them if you can find any. They come up as a mass of blue flowers after the snowdrops and before the crocuses. Cover with soil and plant some winter-flowering pansies and some small trailing ivy plants if you like. I got this container garden idea from, “The Twelve Month Gardener” by Whitcap Books.
My sister wants an herb garden in a container so here goes. Get a big pot, fill it mostly up with potting soil and plant a pot of chives, a pot of parsley and several pots of thyme. Thyme comes in different flavours but I prefer thyme vulgaris for cooking. Plant the pot sparingly as the chives and parsley will grow large. Herbs do not need as much fertilizer as flowers but they still need some.
If you buy olive oil and have any of the tall tins left over, I recommend punching a few holes in the bottom and filling the tin with potting soil. To this, add a pot or a rooted cutting of a tasty mint. The mint can stand at the back of the herb pot which should be positioned to get full sun. One mint plant, once it gets going, should provide you with a lot of tea to drink and tasty leaves to add to salads.
Plant a rosemary bush in the warmest part of your yard where it will get full sun. Don’t try to grow it in a container as the roots of rosemary don’t like being chilled in the winter and the plant does much better in the soil with a nice fluffy mulch around it to protect its roots from frost. Don’t start cutting the rosemary until it is growing well. Let it have two or three years to get over the transplant shock. Good luck with your container gardening!