By Kim Walter - firstname.lastname@example.org
While container gardening's name sounds just like what it is, the practice leaves plenty of room for creativity.
Container gardening simply allows those with maybe not the greenest of thumbs to grow plants exclusively in containers instead of in the ground.
What you plant, as well as what you plant it in, leaves room for a variety of results.
Front Royal Master Gardener Marsha Burd suggested that container gardening has gained recent popularity due to more people moving into places, like townhouses or apartments, with limited ground space.
Burd offered a few major tips when thinking about starting a container garden.
"It is best to start with already growing plants," she said. While starting with seeds will also work, the process may be more involved and could lead to disappointment if germination doesn't happen, Burd said.
As for the start date, Burd said it's best to plant after May 1, as the last recorded frost date for the area is May 15.
"You have to use commercially prepared potting soil -- do not use soil from your garden," she said, as garden soil contains weed seeds, insect eggs and possibly diseased organisms. She added that each year should start with new soil.
Some potting soil already contains fertilizer and some even has moisture retaining properties, she said, which leads to her next suggestion.
"The biggest threat to container gardens is lack of water," Burd said. She advised that unless there is a steady rain, container plants must be watered at least once a day, and sometimes more often that.
The containers need to have drainage holes, and "if there are none, drill some," she said.
When it comes to choosing what to plant, Burd said you can grow almost anything in a container, as long as proper light and temperature requirements are met.
"Vegetables need sun, so a shady porch won't work. However, flowers and plants such as impatiens and coleus thrive in shady conditions," she said. Vegetables that specifically work well in containers are tomatoes and peppers, Burd said.
"Some people have even grown roots vegetables like potatoes in half barrels," she said. "Experiment."
Normal plant containers like flower pots and window boxes aren't the only options for holding your garden.
"I've seen people use old boots, paint cans, gallon milk cartons, old buckets," Burd said.
Many container gardeners do so for decorative purposes, and Burd offered a basic display set up.
"Have a plant that is tall in the middle, add some plant material that is medium height around it and then some cascading plants around the edge," she said. "Don't be skimpy, use a lot of plants."