Consider the plight of a gardener without a garden. Many of them—at least a dozen in my town—long to plunge their hands into the soil but, alas, no soil!
They may be living temporarily in rented houses. Perhaps their land is unworkable; they may be recovering from an illness and so are unable to dig and hoe; or perhaps they are living with relatives who, lacking the proper conditioning, are anti-garden.
Most pathetic of all is the class I belong to, the enthusiasts who have planted every inch of their yards and have no more space to conquer. For all of these gardeners, I recommend portable gardening.
Grown In Pot, Tub and Box
You will be surprised at how many things you can grow in pots, tubs, and boxes—many of them far better than in the open garden.
You can tailor-make the conditions they like best, giving them the right soil, light, and water for their particular needs.
If you find that your gardenia is not growing as well as it should in one corner, you can move it to another where conditions are better for it. You can’t do that easily with a plant anchored in the soil of your border.
Growing Flowers in Open Ground
When you grow flowers in the open ground you have only one chance to plan your summer color scheme. If, as a result, the tuberous begonias scream at the floribunda roses, you just close your eyes and hurry by.
But when you grow the begonias in pots, it’s simple to trundle the offenders across the patio and place them next to more harmonious neighbors.
Moving plants around to create new color combinations isn’t hard at all. I sometimes tip a plant container onto a roller skate and scoot it across the patio to its new location.
I also have a square board to which three casters are fastened and serve as a dolly for heavier plants.
Setting Out Plants in Full Bloom
When you set out your plants in full bloom, you have the advantage of an immediate display. If you have a suitable window, your pot plants can be used indoors in winter, too, thus extending your garden season by many weeks.
Plants To Grow
Geraniums certainly head the list of plants for pot culture. You will find remarkably beautiful and unusual kinds. For example, how about the pansy geranium? What could be prettier?
And then there is Mrs. Layal of the domesticums with a lovely purple, rose, and white flower. Watered well and fed occasionally, this geranium will grow into a robust plant and bloom beautifully.
If you have room for a vine, consider one of the ivy geraniums. They dislike shade and too much humidity but perform well wherever the situation is to their liking unless it is very cool.
I set deep pink Charles Turner on my porch and let it climb right up to the bedroom window. Nutmeg Lavender is Less ambitious and does well where there is limited space for roaming.
Don’t overlook the fruit-scented geraniums for use on a porch or patio where you can enjoy their fragrance close by. If your memories of childhood include a rose-scented geranium, buy yourself one.
You’ll find it just as heavenly as you remember it. I have a Lady Mary (lemon) in the corner of my patio. I dose the plant with a cupful of water over the foliage whenever a company is expected to release the delightful fragrance. Each guest arrives, sniffing the air appreciatively.
In the fall, when frost is expected, I cut the geraniums back to about 4″ inches and use these cut-off pieces to start new plants for winter bloom. Then, I dig up and store the mature plants. With an occasional sprinkling, they are content to wait for spring.
Try Some Bulbs
Why not enjoy potted bulbs? I plant tulip and narcissus bulbs in pots in the fall and put them in a trench deep enough so I can cover them with 6” to 8” inches of soil. Then, in spring, I bring the pots indoors for forcing.
One great advantage of growing bulbs in pots is that there is no unattractive yellowing foliage to mar garden beauty, for at that time, you remove the pots and substitute something else.
If you need the containers immediately, just remove plants, soil, and all, and leave them in a shady place until the foliage has completely matured.
Tuberous begonias do well in shady or semi-shady spots, providing a brilliant display all summer long.
Start your bulbs by pressing them into a shallow pan of moist peat moss, cup side up, and keep them in a bright but not sunny window where the temperature will be 75° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit.
Give them an occasional light watering. When the bulbs have made good top growth, transplant them into pots filled with slightly acidic soil. I use two parts leaf mold, one part sand, and one part rich garden soil (preferably compost).
Unlike many of my gardening friends, I pot only once. After that, the begonias go straight from my window ledge to the selected spot outdoors when the weather is warm and settled.
When cold weather comes, take up the tubers, wash them clean, and let them dry thoroughly in a light place with good ventilation.
When mine is dry, I pack them in dry sand or peat moss and store them in the cool fruit cellar for the winter. The tubers require larger pots the following year since they increase in diameter during the summer.
Baby Roses Are ideal
I like miniature roses for pot gardening, too. These exquisite little gems are too tiny to make a big show when planted among more spectacular plants, but if you feature them in a long box at the patio’s edge, they will command attention with their miniature perfection.
For Hanging Baskets
Bright fuchsias in hanging baskets will bloom gaily throughout the summer. The new double-fibrous begonias with lovely glossy leaves are compact plants covered with bloom all summer through.
What About Care?
I have often been asked whether portable plants aren’t too much trouble.
My answer: for the rewards, definitely not. Of course, you must obtain a supply of boxes and pots and the right soil must be prepared for various plants. That’s work if you aren’t a gardener—fun if you are.
The mixture I like best is made up of two parts of rich garden soil, preferably part compost, one part sand, and one part peat moss. Blooming plants will be all the better for adding organic fertilizer in water every two or three weeks during the summer.
Plants concentrated in a small space are more easily cared for. A quick once-over with the hose or watering can, occasional picking of faded flowers, and regular feeding are about all it takes to achieve summer-long bloom and beauty.
I use a gentle stream when I water my potted plants, letting it flow until the water runs out of the bottom of the container to make sure the soil is well-soaked.
An exploratory finger pressed in the soil will tell me when it is dry enough to water again. Some plants need more water than others, and strong sun or wind may make more frequent watering necessary on some days.
Start thinking right now about pot plants you could use to provide beauty all summer long. Then, plan and plant—your foresight will set the stage for loveliness.
44659 by Dorothy Schroeder