Tending to a traditional garden may be a favorite hobby of many Eastern Iowans, but if you’re looking for something new to try in your yard this year, a container garden may be the perfect option.
Container gardens have become popular over the last several years, and Lucy Hershberger, co-owner of Forever Green in North Liberty, says there are plenty of ways to incorporate them into your outdoor spaces. “When we talk about a container garden, it’s any plant that is grown above ground,” she says. “It might be a small raised bed, a pod, a hanging basket or even a large pot.”
The ease of container gardening is one of its biggest draws. “It seems like the reason they’re getting so popular right now is because it’s an easy way to grow things. There is less weeding. You don’t have to prepare the ground. You just have to buy a planter and soil, and plant,” Hershberger says.
For those without a green thumb – or those who are crunched for time – container gardening can be a great way to spruce up your outdoor space quickly and easily. “Gardening was sort of a hobby in years past. Now it seems like people are leaning more towards having a beautiful garden with less time spent, and more time to enjoy it,” Hershberger says. “Containers play right into that.”
Another bonus of container gardening is its versatility. “Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can use a container to grow plants on your patio, deck, or in a window box,” she says.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate containers into your landscape and the design of your outdoor spaces, too. “Last year seemed like the year of the palms. They are maybe three feet tall, and if you do three in containers across the deck it turns into a kind of a wall or privacy barrier. It doesn’t look like you’re putting up a privacy fence that way, and it’s really pretty,” she says.
Hershberger also has seen many clients create simple, but eye-catching container gardens that brighten up a space in a hurry. “The other nice things about containers is that it’s so easy to pop something in at the last minute. If you have people coming over and your yard doesn’t look great, you can add a flash of color somewhere in no time.”
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And as for color, she recommends planting hearty flowers like petunias and geraniums. “Annual flowers are probably the best for containers. They’ve got so many new colors and styles – you almost can’t mess it up,” she says.
You can also swap out the plants in your container garden fairly easily when needed. “We see a lot of people plant annuals in the spring and then change over in September to something like mums that can hold up and look good throughout the fall as well. You don’t need to nurse spring plants to health in the fall, you can just start fresh,” she says.
While many people stick to flowers, vines, and leafy green plants for their above-ground gardens, Hershberger says containers are also a great option for growing vegetables and herbs.
“The most common edible that we see in containers is tomatoes, and you could also easily do peppers, radishes, and lettuce. Almost everything works well except vine vegetables – like pumpkins – because they need room to spread,” she says. “Almost all herbs do really well in containers.”
If you’re interested in learning more about how to create your own container garden, Forever Green offers container gardening seminars. In class, you’ll learn the basics like what soil to use, how to fertilize your garden, and how to start your plants. Having the right size container is important, as is making sure you water your garden often enough. “Because they’re not in the ground and they have more root mass, you will likely have to water them every day,” Hershberger advises.
Perhaps the best tip she has is to be sure to have fun. “People like to play with it and everyone has their own style. It’s almost like art,” she says.