A shaded path and a dark patio corner can both be brightened with a planter filled with ferns. And a self-watering planter makes the entire project simple all summer long.
Self-watering planters are basically two compatibly sized containers, with the smaller one set into the larger one. Plants absorb water as they need it through their roots from the reservoir below.
The container that holds the plants has holes in the bottom plus an overflow hole in the side. A piece of plastic pipe can be put into a central bottom hole to help water enter the plant container from the reservoir.
The planting container is filled with moistened soil and plants. Then water can be poured into the pipe to fill the reservoir.
Simple, do-it-yourself, self-watering planter plans are available at www.urbanorganicgardener.com and www.motherearthnews.com or you can purchase them from vendors such as Lechuza at www.lechuza.com or EarthBox at www.earthbox.com.
The Lechuza products include designer ceramic and metal finish planters made for home and office use as well as outside. They also have a built in water level indicator that takes the guess work out of watering.
The planting container has to have everything for the plants inside and it is up to the gardener to provide the correct amount of sunlight, water, and fertilizer. Large pots may be more difficult to move around but they provide a larger amount of soil and moisture for the plants as they grow.
Adding polymer moisture-holding crystals to the planting soil is an effective way to prevent drying out in the hot summer months. After your plants take all the available water from the soil, the water stored in the crystals is released into the soil. Each time you water, the crystals absorb and store more water for future use.
The Muskogee County Conservation District sells the polymer crystals. They purchase them in bulk and package them in plastic bottles that sell for $5. The Conservation District office is at 3001 Azalea Park DR at the corner of Hwy 69 and Shawnee Bypass. Phone 918-682-8831.
Plants in planters can be monopot or combopot. Monopots hold a single type of plant and combopots are made up of two or more kinds. Combopots usually have a tall plant in the middle, a trailing plant around the outer edge and something mid-sized to fill in.
Choose plants that suit your life style. Slow growing succulents for the sun or ferns for the shade can make a dramatic impact without much work. Quickly growing annuals such as zinnias and marigolds will require removing spent flowers to keep them looking fresh. Vines and climbers can be combined and trained to follow the line of a trellis or form.
A collection of varying sizes of monopots can be made into an arrangement, with each pot containing different plant heights and leaf shapes. With a single plant or plant type in each container, they can be watered and fertilized according to their specific needs.
“The Encyclopedia of Container Plants” by Ray Rogers with photos by Rob Cardillo, will inspire beginning and experienced gardeners who are looking for great container gardening ideas. The 500 container plant examples are illustrated and each one is described in detail.
Rogers writes from experience with the plants. For example, when discussing Alocasias or Elephant Ears he writes, “Don’t be surprised if some of the elephant ears dominating your patio in summer turn out to resemble horse or dog ears or something much less imposing.”
The book was published by Timber Press (www.timberpress.com) and is $21 online or $35 from the publisher.
Make sure that the plants you choose for combopots have compatible needs such as sun/shade or dry/wet.