Container gardens are sprouting up everywhere these days. With decreasing time and space available to many homeowners, container gardening provides the enjoyment of colourful flowers and foliage throughout the growing season even in the smallest of spaces. With only a few containers you can beckon butterflies, hummingbirds, and other wildlife by creating a “garden” paradise. Although small in space, balcony gardens can provide significant benefits to wildlife, especially if we look at the combined effect of many balconies working together.
Choose your containers. Anything that will hold soil and can withstand regular watering will do. Yard sales and thrift shops are great places to find unique containers with vintage appeal that will look great filled with plants. Remember that drainage is the container’s most important feature, so make sure that the containers you select have at least one or more drainage holes.
Prepare for filling. If using large pots, it is recommended to fill the bottom half with filling material such as overturned plastic containers, plastic milk and juice cartons or empty soda cans to economize on soil. It will also make the containers much lighter if they need to be moved.
Add soil. For containers, it’s best to use a soilless mix of various organic and inorganic materials. An ideal combination contains 40% peat moss, 20% pine bark, 20% sand and 20% perlite or vermiculite. The fine texture of field soil, though great for gardens, doesn’t provide adequate aeration or permit proper drainage in shallow pots and containers.
Choose your plants. When choosing plants for your containers, select varieties that share the same growing needs such as soil type, light preference, watering and fertilizing requirements. However, slightly different combinations may work fine together as well; plants in containers that grace the entrance to CWF's headquarters have different growth needs and they bloom just fine.
Include perennials. Perennials are actually easier to care for than annuals, requiring less deadheading, and look best at the end of the summer when annuals show signs of wear and tear. Just remember that to survive the winter, they must be planted in the ground or brought inside.
Add the plants. Plant the tallest plant in the middle, followed by the medium height fillers around it. Add the spillers along the edge of the container. The plants must be planted so they sit at the same level at which they grew in the nursery pots. To create an eye-catching container, set the plants as close as you can.
Fertilize. Even if continuous-release fertilizer was added at the time of planting or was already in the soilless mix, daily watering quickly depletes these nutrients. Add water-soluble fertilizers on a weekly basis to ensure constant bloom and vigor.
End of season care. Before bringing container plants in for wintering in the house, give them a forceful shower with a garden hose to chase off any insects and their eggs that might be hiding in the foliage.