Over the last few years as I have wandered through many Lincoln yards during tours and other adventures, I have found many interesting ways to grow plants. One of the more common photos I have is of wheelbarrows-metal, tin and wood ones. They are almost ideal as a plant container as they are deep enough so the roots can find a way and don’t dry out as fast as many of the pots.  They are also wide and long enough to include a variety of plants.  Some had petunias that trailed over the sides, some had the shorter ornamental grasses, and several were in the shade with begonias or impatiens. One was filled with bark chips and held house plants still in their pots. Another had a collection of these new short (18 inch) fuzzy sunflowers as the high point of shorter plants.

          Perhaps my favorite was a vegetable garden! She could no longer get down to the ground very well so her family had filled the barrow and placed it on her patio. A spring salad was doing fine!! If you try this be sure there are several holes in the bottom for drainage and then wheel it around to where the plants do best.

          Another group of planters were “little red wagons” that had probably been abandoned as the kids grew older.  These are not as deep and will require more frequent watering and smaller plants but they have the advantage of being easily moved to sunny spots as the shadows moved.  These could be used to keep houseplants off the ground so their roots couldn’t move into the soil or to keep the plants up high enough to escape rabbits.  Nebraska gardeners have probably developed the best imaginations known anywhere.

          Among my collection are pictures of many beautiful little carts-probably made by husbands who like to work with wood.  One was a pale pink with fancy wheels filled with dark pink and white geraniums plus one or two vines hanging down.  Several of these I found on patios of people who lived in apartments. One was a collection of coleus of every description-green leaves, red ones, varied colors. These have the advantage that she can take cuttings in the fall and take them in to keep her crop for the next summer. Some of the carts had the plants in their pots with other pots upside down to arrange the height.  Other were lined with plastic to save the wood and then planted.  The plastic had to have drain holes to prevent drowning. 

          The variety of containers was amazing.  One was a toilet stool with the water tank on a fence behind and both were growing very well with both upright and trailing plants. This was just at the entrance gate and the start of an interesting garden. Trees, shrubs, annuals, grasses, and perennials can all be planted in containers.  The only trouble comes with winter and you have to decide what to save, what has to be planted in garden and what will need to be replaced next spring. 

          I have seen several chairs that were painted and the seat replaced with a large bowl.  One rather large one held an “herb garden”. Old fashioned wash tubs worked well in many places.  They are big and deep enough to support large plants that need root space.  Geraniums with trailing plants were the most popular.  Also they are sturdy enough to pick up and move.

          Tree stumps that might be in the way ordinarily, were used to elevate pots in the back of container gardens so that all the plants could be seen well. One person used a tall stump with a ladder for clematis to grow up to the top and then fluff over and hang down. In one yard I saw a row boat lined up to cover a tall foundation and then planted as a raised bed.

          Here are some the rules of container planting:

1.     The small the pot the more often it must be watered.

2.     Clay pots are porous to they need more water than plastic ones.

3.     Clay pots crack in the winter so need to be dumped and better yet, put inside somewhere.

4.     It is safer to empty all your pots rather than just re-use the old potting mix. You can save the soil, mix it with compost, and then use again.

5.     Use good quality potting soil or a special container mix rather than garden soil as it may contain diseases and also it dries into a hard mass that pulls away from the side of the pot. Cheap potting mix is usually no more than poor garden soil that has been packaged, so use good a quality container mix. You get what you pay for.

6.     You can make your own container mix with equal parts of peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and compost. This does not contain any fertilizer so act accordingly.

Copyright 2006.