Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.
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So you don’t have a lot of space but still want to get your hands in the dirt and grow some flowers or vegetables?
No problem. Try container gardening.
On your deck, in the courtyard, on the patio, or on the balcony of your home or condo.
Here are a few steps to successfully creating a container garden:
■ Identify a suitable location for planters. It should be somewhere that gets a good amount of sunlight and has easy access to water so you don’t have to carry a heavy watering can up and down stairs.
■ Find suitable containers for holding your plants. If the location is visible from the street and you’ll be spending a lot of time nearby, you’ll want the containers to be attractive, possibly decorative, to complement your home or patio décor. One important feature of your containers is that they must have a drainage hole so excess water can seep out. Otherwise you may suffocate the roots of your plants if their feet are standing in water and they cannot breathe. Make sure the containers are not too close together because air circulation is important to the health of your plants, also.
■ Find suitable plants for the containers. The label on any plants or seed packets you purchase should include how much light the plant can handle (full sun, partial or full shade) and how large the plant will grow. Make sure the container is large enough, but not too big, for the plants you’re putting into them.
■ Use a suitable planting mixture for your plants and/or seeds. Don’t use regular garden soil from the backyard as that has a tendency to compact into a hard ball in the planters making it hard for roots to move through the soil. Instead, use potting soil or a mix of potting soil and peat or other organic material. Place your small plants in the containers to the depth at which they were grown in the nursery pot. For seeds, follow directions on depth and how far apart the seeds should be planted.
You will find that plants in a container garden will need to be watered more often than regular garden plants. That’s because the soil will dry out from all sides of the plant, unlike garden plants that dry out primarily from the soil line down.
Container plants also will require the use of additional fertilizer because the plants are in a confined soil space and cannot obtain nutrients by inching their roots down or out away from the main plant.
One of the primary benefits of container gardening in this mountain environment is the ability to move your plants as the weather changes. Should a frost warning appear or should the sun become too intense, you can easily move the plants to a protected location.
Container gardening is a great way to get your gardening “fix” when outdoor growing space is limited.
Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the Routt County Cooperative Extension Office. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.