By Kerry Ann Mendez, award-winning speaker, designer, author and owner Perennially Yours, LLC.
Container gardening continues to grow in popularity. This is not surprising when one considers that the two largest age groups in the United States are Baby Boomers and Millennials. Many Baby Boomers (like me) are ‘right-sizing’ the square footage they garden or moving into smaller homes. Marketing trends show the majority of Millennials are opting for urban settings.
Gardening in containers offers the timeless satisfaction of growing one’s own flowers and food, but also allows for limited space, time and physical ability. Another dividend is cost effectiveness. New container technology has resulted in lower water usage, as well as stylish weather-resistant pots for overwintering plants. Spending money wisely appeals to everyone, from Boomers on retirement budgets to Millennials, many of whom are saddled with college loans and home mortgages.
For many, the idea of container gardening triggered nightmares of dragging hoses and watering cans around on a daily basis. This onerous practice is now becoming a thing of the past with the introduction of revolutionary technology. Now state-of-the-art, self-watering pots are decidedly easier to use than irrigating most gardens. Plus, these “smart” systems are extremely water-wise, reducing precious water lost to evaporation, and at the same time reducing untimely plant deaths due to over- or under-watering. Plants “know” when they are thirsty and draw water as needed from a reservoir in the container’s base. Capillary action then delivers water into the potting soil, keeping planters consistently moist. Your only job is to periodically check the water level indicator and refill the tank when needed. Another perk of many systems is that water-soluble fertilizer can be added to the reservoir, eliminating fertilizer runoff.
I recently trialed a TruDrop planter from Crescent Garden. I packed it with a combination of perennials and annuals for part sun, filled the water reservoir as instructed, stepped back and waited. I was astounded that I didn’t need to add more water to the reservoir for six weeks! The plants thrived. Another company with an impressive line of ultra-smart self-watering pots is EarthPlanter. Note: water needs will vary depending on a container’s location. (i.e., full sun or shade)
Another strategy to save time and money on containers is to replace annuals with long-lived plants like perennials, dwarf flowering shrubs, conifers, climbing vines and bulbs. Instead of purchasing trays of annuals each year, as going through the same repotting motions, I simply tuck in a few annuals to accessorize. As a general rule of thumb, plants intended for long-term residency should be hardy to two zones colder than where you live. My newest book, The Budget-Wise Gardener, includes lists of hardy plants to use a thrillers, fillers and spillers. The book includes many other dollar-wise, time-saving tips including where to find plants for terrific prices (if not free); unique, economical design ideas; incorporating more natives and sustainable practices, how not to get duped when buying online, and much more. For more information on The Budget-Wise Gardener click here.