Pot a little pretty

Written by Kathy Weiss

Do you crave the vibrant hues and subtle fragrances of floral blooms around your home, but lack the ground on which to plant? Contain it.

Containers offer endless possibilities for bringing flowers and plants into our living spaces, along walkways, onto decks, balconies and patios, under windows and even indoors. Containers are, in a sense, the great equalizer, making gardeners out of condo owners and apartment dwellers just as they do homeowners who have acres of growing space.

For inspiration and how-to’s, we turned to master gardener Marilou Gay of Iowa City, whose specialty is designing container gardens. She shared her secrets on an activity she insists anyone can do with almost any vessel large and deep enough to accommodate plants and a root system. Besides conventional pots, window boxes, planters, baskets and decorative urns, she suggests using pans, pails and even five-gallon paint buckets as a no-frills method of growing vegetables.

The biggest factor in selecting the right container is drainage.

“If you have a container without holes, you need to drill holes,” Marilou says, noting that holes can easily be drilled through plastic, pottery, wood and metal. Four or more quarter-inch holes should be evenly spaced around the bottom of the container.

To further facilitate draining, she covers the bottom with a half-inch of coarse gravel, small stones or pieces of broken clay pot. For large containers, she places empty plastic milk bottles over the drainage material to partially fill without adding weight.

Soil selection is also important; plain old dirt won’t do, Marilou says. “It packs too much. Potting mix is essential.”