Container Gardening My Way by Lew Whitney

//Container Gardening My Way by Lew Whitney

Container Gardening My Way by Lew Whitney

There are as many forms of container gardening as there are containers and gardeners, no right way, probably a few wrong ways, and in this story, following Frank Sinatra… My Way.

Why container gardening? Many reasons: lack of garden space, lack time to spend gardening, seasonal and weather factors, but in my case it’s soil conditions. I have plenty of garden space, time to garden, a benign climate and… terrible, absolutely wretched clay soil, the kind they use to build adobe houses. It doesn’t drain, sticks like brown paste when wet, dries like a brick.

I also love to grow flowers for cutting so containers reign at my house. I must confess to having more than 100 pots and baskets scattered and clustered throughout my garden, but for this story I am going to concentrate on those in which I grow seasonal flowers for cutting, sweet peas in the winter and spring months, dahlias from summer into autumn. I think of these as crops. My wife thinks of them as joyful.  We both have fun.

For growing these crops I have chosen large, black, heavy duty plastic containers, 20 gallon size, that measure 24 inches across and 18 inches high. While not exactly artistic, they are practical, durable and reasonably priced. Each 20 gallon container holds about 3 cubic feet of potting soil and costs $24.99. I would guess that each container produces about ten times its cost in cut flowers.

My Favorite Containers

These same containers come in 15 gallon ($14.99) and 25 gallon ($29.99) sizes.

While I have chosen sweet peas and dahlias, I could grow vegetables (almost any kind from tomatoes to squashes to berries)  roses, flowers of different  kinds, succulents, citrus in these same containers.

My planting cycle begins in the early fall when I plant sweet peas. I like to start them from seed in September, but I could also buy them as four inch plants in November. This past year Rogers imported seeds from English hybridizers and then worked with one of our best suppliers to grow them into four inch plants.

A curve ball arrives with the need for support trellises for the sweet peas to climb and the home run is hit with strong wire trellises that literally fold in half for storage so that you do not need to replace your car in the garage with trellises.

Trellises unfolded ready for use

Trellises folded for easy storage

So, here we are in March and my sweet peas are flourishing, having climbed half way up the trellises on their way to the top and beginning to bloom and here comes curve ball number two: it’s time to plant dahlia tubers and my containers are full of sweet peas that will bloom for the next couple of months.

I solve this dilemma by starting my Dahlias, both the tubers that I removed and stored last autumn and new ones that I bought this year, in 3 gallon nursery cans.

Sweet Peas are thriving and dahlias are waiting their turn in 3 gallon nursery cans.

Sweet Peas are hard to beat for beauty and fragrance

Of course, you could start your dahlias in other sizes of temporary containers, but I have found the 3 gallon size just right.

My container gardening cycle shifts gears again around June first when the sweet peas have run out of gas and the dahlias are ready to transplant. It’s a lot of work to remove the sweet pea plants, remove and store the trellises, replenish the potting soil and plant the dahlias, but within a few weeks I have armloads of dahlias to arrange in the house and share with friends.

Summer means Dahlias and I will have loads of them

The potting soil quality is important, but a good product can last several year with only partial replenishment. Not surprisingly, I choose Rogers Potting Soil.

Roger’s Gardens Potting Soil

And do not forget to feed. For flowers, Rogers Flower Food is specifically formulated to stimulate flowering plants.

And, finally, cut those flowers. The more you cut the more they bloom.

By |2013-03-14T16:11:57+00:00March 14th, 2013|Gardening|4 Comments

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  1. Nita Underwood March 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    This was an interesting article. Although it was too late for sweet peas, I’ll try the dahlias. printed the article to remind me about sweet peas in September.

    Any more suggestions for lovely cutting flowers?

  2. Lew Whitney March 18, 2013 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Dear Nita,

    I am always thrilled when someone responds to my Blog. Thank you.

    Right now, it is too late to plant other spring options, but for future reference, Anemone Mona Lisa is a fabulous choice that can be planted in early winter. You can read about these in other Blogs that I have written.

    Dahlias are by far my first choice in the summer, but Plan B would be Gloriosa Daisies, also called Rudebeckia.

    Hope this helps.


  3. Adela March 22, 2013 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    Hello Nita, I enjoyed your article, especially because I love sweet peas and mine are growing nicely in a container! In growing citrus fruit trees in containers, what is the best food for these? Thank you!

    • Roger's Gardens March 25, 2013 at 11:49 pm - Reply

      Hi Silvia,
      I think you would be safe with either Roger’s Soil Activator or the Dr. Earth Fruit Tree Fertilizer, your choice. Both should do a good job. In my experience, citrus are one of the heaviest feeders in a garden, especially if they are in pots. I see a great deal of citrus in gardens that are undernourished, pale and unhappy – probably the majority are this way.
      In the ground, if using a food like either of these I suggest three feedings a year, once January or February, once about April/May and a final dose about July or August. In containers I might even feed all year, but especially from about January through early fall.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.


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