No grass? No problem - 6 benefits of a lush container garden: Gardening with Brendan

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Modern living means most of us have little time to devote to creating and maintaining a garden, but if your yard is concreted over or you don’t have one at all you can still create a beautiful lush display around or even inside your home this summer using containers.

In fact, there are a lot of benefits of growing flowers, shrubs, trees, fruit and vegetables in pots of all shapes and sizes.

Since digging up part of my back yard, I have a north facing yard full of young plants now but outside my south facing front consists of a driveway and a tiny patch of shallow soil lawn which I never bother planting in. Instead I am opting to create a container garden and in truth the seedlings in pots are faring much better so far than those plonked in the ground. So here’s some of the advantages of a container garden:

Pot up and leave

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Getting containers ready to be moved to the front garden.Getting containers ready to be moved to the front garden.
Getting containers ready to be moved to the front garden.

Once they are done, that’s basically it, there’s very little maintenance involved. With pots and containers, there’s little to no weeding involved, and most container gardens require very little care beyond watering, feeding occasionally, and in some instances later in the summer and into winter pruning and dead heading. All you’ll need is some compost or soil, seeds or young plants from a garden centre, and containers. And when it comes to containers they don’t have to be traditional plastic or terracotta plant pots and window boxes. You could use old buckets, bins, basins, woven baskets and sturdy wooden boxes, lemonade or milk cartons with the top parts lobbed off – basically anything you can poke or drill holes in will do.

Plants love pots

There’s very little that will not grow in a pot. I’m growing various fruits in containers at the moment - strawberries, blueberries, blackcurrants – and they are all doing well. Flowers I’ve potted up include sweet peat, oxeye daisies, pansies, petunias, calendula, marigolds, night scented phlox, dahlias, zinnias, lobelia, miniature sunflowers, sweet alyssum, nasturtiums and Californian and Icelandic poppies and they are all thriving. Many have flower buds already and the strawberries are in bloom.

Pest control

Container planting at the south west facing front garden.Container planting at the south west facing front garden.
Container planting at the south west facing front garden.

You are much more likely to find your plants– especially young plants – ravaged from above and below by critters of the soil, birds or small mammals when they are in the ground. So far I’ve had a few casualties – marigolds and baby’s breath has vanished overnight in the backyard with a few slimey trails left as evidence as to the culprits. Below ground there are grubs such as leatherbacks / earwigs which devour the roots of plants and even the roots of grass. Particularly vulnerable young plants include lupins, hollyhock and dahlias so I’ll be keeping a close eye on those. Plants in containers are just much a lot more effort for slugs and snails, and containers are easier to create barriers around to keep them at bay.

Get creative

Opting for containers gives you more say in the end results and the opportunity to go a bit arty and choose which plants you want to pair with which and where you want to put them. It’s kind of like creating living flower arrangements, little works of beauty- just plant, sit back and watch them evolve and come to life over the summer months. For a splash of added colour you can paint your containers, add designs and there is a myriad of different colours, shapes and sizes of pots and other containers to choose from. A container garden is als also a great way to actually a create your own living supply of handy herbs for cooking and flavouring drinks either in the same container or a row of little pots in a windowsill.

Good behaviour

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Most plants can thrive in containers.Most plants can thrive in containers.
Most plants can thrive in containers.

In the ground, you are going to get plants which thrive and others that struggle to stay alive. Different plants mature at different speeds so the results of a mixed garden is less predictable. Fast growers may block sunlight and drain nutrients from other plants and the latter may die away. And some plants don’t stop growing. There are many gardeners who rue the day they planted one particular little plant and have struggled ever since to control it. They can take over the entire ecosystem of your garden, often through fast spreading and complex underground root systems and can be a nightmare to try and eradicate. The same type of plant in a container – I’m looking at you Japanese anemone- however is likely to be far better behaved – but if you know it has been a problem for others or elsewhere in your garden just don’t let it go to seed and keep an eye on any sneaky roots poking out the bottom of ther container.

Mobile garden

One of the great thing about container gardens is you can experiment with location. Be it a balcony, window sill, porch or pavement, you can play around with it and see which spot which plants like best or where you think you will get most enjoyment from them. Most plants love sun so check which way the sun sets and rises in your garden. My south west facing front garden gets the lions share of the sunshine from late morning to sundown so the plants there do tend to fair much, much better than their poor relations at the back. If you are in a very shaded location though there are numerous plants which actually prefer or do very well in these conditions like geraniums and busy lizzies (impatiens), fuschias and begonias.

Next week I’ll give an update on how the plants newly transplanted into the back garden have faired. And it’s not all good thus far…

‘Til then, happy gardening.

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