Container gardening is an excellent alternative or addition to a real garden, but require special treatment. For many years I really enjoyed planting container gardens in giant clay pots while living in rented apartments in Calgary. Here are a few tips I learned from professional gardeners.
1. If you live in an apartment and want to add a window box, check with the landlord to see if you're allowed to have one. Certain landlords ban them and fear that they will damage the structure of their buildings. Realistically, a well prepared window box won't cause any damage as long as it's anchored firmly in place. You can buy special brackets to do this and stores also have drip trays so that you can catch any excess water that drains out of it. Not only are they attractive, but window boxes make it difficult for intruders to climb in through windows. They have to tackle the plants first!
2. If you want to add a large container to your balcony or if have access to a flat roof, check to see if there are any weight restrictions before installing it. It's worth remembering that one cubic yard of compost weights one ton - and that's only its dry weight. If you then add the weight of a container, plants and water, you could be placing an intolerable strain on the floor or roof which may not be able to support it.
3. When planting a window box, remember that you are creating a miniature landscape. Consider including some dwarf or slow-growing plants, such as conifers, and one or two trailing vines to soften the edges. Add splashes of color by introducing some summer bedding plants like petunias, pansies or tulips.
4. Wooden half-barrels are among the cheapest forms of large containers. To prevent these barrels from rotting, they need to be lined with plastic sheets with some drainage holes punched into both the plastic sheets and the barrel. Unless you are planting a tree, you won't need to fill the entire barrel with compost. Instead, fill the bottom half with a layer of broken shards of pot to provide drainage, and then add some ordinary garden soil before topping up the barrel with compost to an adequate rooting depth.
5. To add an aged appearance to your garden ornaments and pots simply paint them with a little milk. This will encourage moss to grow on them, and they'll soon look as though they've been there for years.
6. Remember that a large pot filled with compost and plants will be very heavy, so save yourself the struggle of moving it by selecting your preferred location and positioning the pot there before filling it.
7. For maximum impact group pots and containers of varying sizes together. Single pots can look a little lonely and plants like to have company.
8. Please note that pots or containers that hold less compost than a conventional eight inch diameter pot will need frequent watering in summer.
9. Every month or so, prick over the soil of any containers or tubs in which long-standing flowers are growing to prevent it from becoming compacted. This allows the soil to absorb air, water and nutrients.
Container gardening is great for anyone who lacks space in apartments or condos. It's really nice especially for city dwellers to enjoy a little bit of greenery right on their balcony during the summer months.
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