Container gardening can bring the garden to your doorstep. They are a lovely addition to a patio or pool area and can create an inviting entry to any home.
Getting those lovely sprays of florals and greens to look good all summer can be a little challenging.
Master Gardener Donna Sagen can help. She specializes in container gardening, and her business, Container Creations, helps homeowners create lovely year-round displays.
She has some tips on getting these little gardens to grow well at your home.
Q: What does Container Creations do for customers?
A: We go out to people’s homes. We assess the home and the sun exposures. We usually help people pick out pots. We plant and then take care of things all summer. We come out every other week.
We can also switch things out at the front door for the four seasons if people want that.
Q: Why container gardening?
A: One of my classes as a master gardener was on container gardening. It was just basic. I really liked it. I started doing it at my own home. I liked the feel of it around my patio.
It’s easier than in the ground because you can control the soil. The ground soil you have to amend a lot, especially around here because we have a lot of clay soil.
You can pull a container into your space — your patio or deck. Instead of looking out at your garden you are sitting in your garden, which is really nice.
Q: What kinds of mistakes do you see people make with their containers?
A: The biggest mistake people make in container gardening is not changing the soil. Fresh potting mix for your summer pots once a year is the best.
If you don’t want to replace the whole pot every year, you can do half and half, but you need to take all of the soil out of the pot, mix it up, and put it back in the pot. The reason for this is that every time you water during a season, the air space between the soil particles closes and you need that space in there for the roots to get their moisture and nutrients and air.
You can till the old potting mix into your gardens. Don’t just throw it out there though. You have to till it in. Otherwise, you have a layer of clay and a layer of the composting type potting soil.
Q: What kind of watering advice do you have?
A: The best thing to do is to use a granular fertilizer in your soil and water deeply. If a pot is in the full sun, water it until the water comes out the bottom of the pot. Then let the plants tell you when they are thirsty again. If they wilt a little bit, they need water. You can also put your finger in the soil a couple of inches and see if there is any moisture in there.
By waiting you are teaching the roots to grow in order to reach for the water at the bottom of the pot. The roots will have to reach down into the pot as far as they can to get moisture. When summer comes along, they will have nice big roots that have reached down into the bottom of a pot. Big roots support nice big flowers and big plants.
Q: How do I choose the best flowers?
A: Don’t start with summer pots until after Mother’s Day. I like to start after summer stock gets in, which is around May 20. Then you are going to find the plants that like the summer here.
Shop for your plants at a nursery instead of a big box store. Nurseries provide a better quality plant, and they provide lots of choices, different colors and variety of plants. They will also have a good staff to help you.
The nursery plants are a little bit more expensive, but the plants will take you longer in the season, so spend the extra $10 or $15 to get better plants that will last you longer.
Also, unless you can tell what’s really wrong with a plant, do not buy a plant that does not look good at the store.
Q: How do I pick a container?
A: I use concrete planters at the front door. They can handle the freezing and thawing throughout the year. With a concrete container, you can have four seasons at your front door. Everything else has to be emptied and stored.
I like to use glazed pots and terra cotta on my deck.
Only pick as many pots as you can take care of. If you don’t have any right now, start with a couple by the front door. Then move on from there. You will learn.
Q: Can you help me get started on my own?
A: I do seasonal demonstration classes. We talk about plant selection and how to property plant a pot. We also do a little bit of design.
I will teach people how to choose summer plants. Spring pots are easy because you can just choose what you like. All the colors look beautiful together and the plants will not grow that much. Summer pots will grow all season. Plant choice is harder.
I can also do private classes for garden clubs and ladies night out classes all year.
Classes and more
Master Gardener Donna Sagen will lead two free classes on summer container gardening on May 16 at Suburban Lawn and Garden, 135th Street and Wornall Road. Register at containercreationsplus.com/classes.html.
Sagen also has written two books about container gardening: “Summer Fun With Container Creations” has basic tips; “Container Creations 3-6-9 Container Design” helps with design and plant choice. Both are available at www.containercreationsplus.com