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Container NEWbie

Posted by miss_beth Missouri (My Page) on
Mon, Aug 15, 11 at 23:49

OK, I've never been much of a yard or flower person. I think they are lovely, but I haven't ever done any of it.

Now I've found myself with a huge jungle to deal with - a home that's been vacant for several years, vines higher than the house, a million mulberry trees, mess, mess, mess.

I've trimmed and chopped and decided to make things as easy easy low maintenance as possible.

A good deal of the back yard will be mulched. I've already prepped the ground and the mulch is coming this week. I want very, very low maintenance container only plants placed casually throughout the various rocks and other cool items I've collected to display in the mulched areas.

Now, I need to know what to put in the containers. I want cheap & easy. I really love greenery .... hostas and ivy are my favorites. Do they do well in containers? Do I have to bring them in for the winter? That's not really an option ....

Please help, I don't need a lot of variety, just a few hardy things I can plant in pots and either leave out for the winter and expect to see them the following spring OR some cheap annuals that I can spend a day each spring replanting.

Nothing in the ground - containers ONLY. Remember, I'm lazy .... okay, not really, but have zero time to spend tending and fussing over things. I just want a back yard I'm not embarrassed to bring company in to. Sometime natural, not fussy.


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Container NEWbie

Hi Beth. Welcome to gardening, but be warned. Nobody starts out with the intention of doing a lot of hard work but when the gardening bug bites you, the desired results often make the required labor seem worthwhile. As long as you start slowly, you should be able to learn fast enough to keep things how you like them and avoid feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.

I feel the same way about the "cheap" part. Also, I prefer beautiful foliage over flowers for containers. The leaves always looks interesting, no waiting for flowers, no need to worry about staking floppy tall flowers, and with a minor effort, most of them can be "saved" for next year. They look great from the day you buy them until you bring them inside or frost kills them.

Containers are actually more difficult to maintain in many ways than in-ground plantings. There is very little leeway for errors in soil composition, and the plants are completely dependent upon you for nutrition and moisture. They usually need water at least every-other day in hot weather. Some quickly get big enough to need water twice a day. If that sounds like fussing to you, having a lot of containers might not be the carefree type of gardening you have envisioned. If that's the case, pots of light-colored foliage (coleus, caladium, persian shield) that are happy in the shade might work better for you. As you consider what you might enjoy, just remember as a general rule-of-thumb, more sun = needs more water. One benefit of containers vs. growing in the ground is rearranging. You can move pots around if something is taller than you thought it would be, needs more sun, etc... Lots of food for thought.

Coleus can be saved by putting cuttings in bottles or glasses of water. Comes in almost any color, grows quickly, and most are equally as happy in the shade or sun. There are also alternantheras which behave similarly. By the end of the year, you can have several plants by using the "mama" plant you bought to take cuttings.

Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) is another favorite fast-growing shade lover with large purple leaves. You can bring the whole pot inside or save cuttings in water like coleus.

Caladiums and elephant ears are interesting foliage plants that have bulbs or tubers that can be dug up and stored in your basement over winter. These are also pretty happy in mostly shade.

Flowers that have bulbs or tubers that you can save over winter include 4'o'clocks (mirabilis jalapa - which also make seeds which will produce blooms the next year,) gladiolus, calla lilies, cannas, dahlias. These would need to be in lots of sun.

In the spring, if you buy a little chartreuse sweet potato vine, it will soon make a ton of shoots which you can break off and stick in the dirt anywhere you want new plants. You can turn 1 hanging basket into a dozen within a month, or have pretty light green leaves trailing out of containers with other more upright plants. Happy in sun or shade.

Seeds which are ubiquitous, inexpensive, and easy to grow include sunflowers, zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, larkspur. All need lots of sun.

Feel free to ask if you are unclear about anything I said and you can find more info than you have time to read by using your favorite search engine to research plants/ideas.

You may think everything is dead at the moment, but weeds can be tricky, and there are sure to be some seeds lurking where you want to mulch. I strongly urge you to put cardboard or several thicknesses (whole sections) of newspaper down before the mulch (to be covered by the mulch.) This prevents most weeds that aren't actually dead from regrowing, and seeds under it probably can't germinate, and will have an extremely hard time getting through to the light if they do. Have you had any help/advice "prepping the area?"

Putting mulch on the ground is a great way to start building "good soil." If/when you do get the urge to use that area for more plants, you'll be impressed later at the change in the soil under the mulch. Mulch usually needs to be "topped off" at least every-other year, so don't be surprised when you notice it's gotten thin. It has just decomposed and given its' nutrients back to the soil.

Most garden-related stuff is dependent on your climate. Climates are divided into gardening zones. You can find your zone here. If you include your zone and state in your profile info, it will show up next to your name automatically when you say something on these forums. That will allow people to better know what kind of advice to give you. Most people include their state, too. The "8b AL" next to my name means I'm in zone 8b, in Alabama.

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