Garden Talk: Out Of The Box Container Gardens

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show
container garden
Courtesy of The Allen Centennial Garden

Do you plant the same plants in your containers every year? Our guests from The Allen Centennial Garden share their ideas for making your containers more exciting and fun.

Featured in this Show

  • Helpful Tips For Container Gardening

    It’s no secret the springtime bloom is a few weeks behind schedule this year.

    The late snow and cold may have kept plants bundled up, but in the last few days they’ve exploded, said Ben Futa, garden director at Allen Centennial Garden in Madison.

    Now that they’re reaching full swing, it’s a good time to consider starting a container garden, or do some maintenance on last year’s pots.

    Container gardening is great for beginners or those short on space and time — and it offers a unique way to add a bit of color to your backyard, Futa said. Gardeners can grow both flowers and vegetables in a variety of container sizes and materials (though there are pros and cons to different materials).

    Futa, along with head gardener Josh Steger, suggests some helpful tips to make your container gardens pop.

    Photo courtesy of Allen Centennial Garden

    What kind of containers are best?

    Garden containers come in a variety of materials ranging from plastic, to terracotta and concrete. While terracotta offers an aesthetic appeal, it doesn’t hold up well over the winter, Futa said. The same goes for plastic containers.

    “We’ve transitioned away from all of our plastic pots and terracotta so we don’t have to bring them indoors for the winter,” he said. “Now we’re adding cast concrete to the containers because they do much better for overwintering.”

    How often do you need to water the containers?

    “It’s better to under-water than over-water,” Futa said. “If you over-water, you are basically drowning (the plants) and you can’t bring them back.”

    Futa suggests keeping an eye on the plants and when they begin to wilt, that’s your sign to water them. He also recommends doing so in the morning because it adds less stress on the plants, and making sure to water them at the root of the plant on the soil, not their leaves.

    Another reason not to over-water? It can cause the plants to leach out important nutrients.

    “The more frequently you water, the more you have to fertilize,” Steger said. “And the more fertilizer will run off as well.”

    What do you do with the fall leave coverage on your containers?

    You have a couple of options here, Futa said. One option is to remove them, come springtime holding onto the leaves through the winter and early spring is a good idea, especially if they cover perennials.

    A second option is to fold the leaves into the soil.

    “(The leaves) will compost and enrich the soil,” he said. “And hopefully make a little less work for you.”

    Do you need to replace the soil in a container garden every year?

    No. Removing about 30 percent of the soil and replacing it with compost will refresh the soil enough, Futa said.

    “Save yourself some time and money,” he said.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Jill Nadeau Producer
  • Ben Futa Guest
  • Josh Steger Guest

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