Planting a container garden

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— Window-box and container gardening are exciting ways you can experiment with different plant combinations on a manageable scale while adding blooms and greenery to your surroundings. This type of gardening is attractive where traditional gardens are not possible, for example, on balconies, courtyards, decks and patios. Both the beginner and advanced gardener can obtain satisfaction from this type of gardening. A balcony draped with flowers brightens an otherwise mundane looking house. A welcoming deck-entry container filled with a trailing mix of geraniums can brighten and punctuate the façade of a home.

Consider the style of your home as you decide which window box or container is appropriate for your surroundings. Containers can be made of any material that can withstand outside weather conditions. This is a terrific place to reflect your personality and taste. Holes should be located at the bottom of the containers to allow for water drainage. Make sure that excess water can drain into a saucer or have free access to drip onto the ground below without concern.

Successful plantings begin with a soil mixture of regular garden soil and a mix of peat and other organic materials. The mix component makes the containers easier to handle and window boxes lighter to load on to the hanging structure. Window box and container soil will dry out faster than in your garden beds, so watering will be required more often. Soil moist granules, or polymer crystals, can be added to your soil mix, allowing you to reduce plant watering requirements. They absorb and later release water into the soil.

Planning an effective window box or container garden requires many of the same design principles as when planning a garden bed. Considerations including microclimate, amount of sun, wind and water need to be addressed when selecting plants. Color combinations can range from a single planting in a monochromatic scheme to a rainbow of color offered by a mixture of a variety of annuals. A three-layer planting approach gives you as much volume as possible out of a small space. The first layer is the cascading plant, one that will hang down over the edges of the container. The second layer should be a more upright plant that will grow taller than the cascading plants. The third layer should consist of plants that won't block the view from the window in window boxes, or act as the central focus in a single potted container.

For an added attraction, select fragrant plants such as lavender or sweet peas or those with blooms that open in the evening like moonvine and evening primrose. Attract hummingbirds with plants bearing pink and red nectar blossoms.

Fertilization is a must because there are a lot of plants growing together in a confined soil space. A controlled release fertilizer that is mixed into the soil at the time of planting, or a water soluble 15-30-15 every two to three weeks will show noticeable results.

Visit our local garden centers for plantings and products suitable for the Routt County area as well as the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Web site at www.ext.colostate.edu to learn more about successful gardening.

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