If you love to garden, and most of us do, right now you’ll be drawn outdoors by the warm spring sunshine, longer days, and the fragrance of sun-warmed earth.
A walk around the Beaufort and Celadon areas in May and June reveals some of the South’s most iconic plants: Crepe Myrtle, Magnolia Trees, Azaleas, climbing roses, French Hydrangeas, and Camellias. These plants bloom in colorful profusion in many of the county’s gardens – a medley of gorgeous pinks, reds, purples, and whites – fragrant and lush.
The ubiquitous daffodils, pansies, and tulips grace pathways, borders, and flowerbeds.
Breathtaking, bouquet-worthy, and the pride of any gardener, a beautiful garden enhances a lovely home, too.
But, it’s a lot of work.
Short on time, energy, and know how? Don’t despair. You too can have a lovely garden.
And living in Planting Zone 9 means it’s not too late in the season to begin.
Here’s how: Container gardening.
If you are not able (or willing) to maintain a big garden, you can opt for a low maintenance environment that offers fragrance, attractive foliage, edibles, and a minimum of watering and weeding.
Hanging gardens and container gardens, especially on your porch, satisfy the desire to grow things, while keeping the work manageable, and at hand.
Self-watering containers, drip systems, and timed irrigation setups will water your plants as needed.
Slow release fertilizer gives veggies, herbs, and flowers the right amount of nutrition. All you’ll have to do is some planning, planting, deadheading, trimming, and harvesting.
Let’s start with the containers:
A browse through Pinterest shows creative gardeners using everything from galvanized washtubs, wooden crates, old whiskey or wine barrels, and wicker baskets, to antique chamber-pots as containers. For a shabby chic and rustic look, these kinds of planters offer interest and whimsy, especially when planted with frothy trailing foliage like asparagus fern or lime green sweet potato vine, and flowers in robust blues, reds, and yellows.
Terracotta planters come in many shapes and sizes, and are budget friendly, iconic, and drain well. Ceramic planters with bright glazes provide a pop of color that can coordinate or contrast with whatever is blooming.
Cast iron and sculpted cement urns, polished aluminum or tall obelisk-style planters offer traditional elegance to a more formal arrangement as well as the weight and depth to support larger flowering shrubs or evergreens.
Whatever your choice of a planter, obtain a variety of sizes to allow for both large and small plants and aesthetically pleasing arrangements. All containers should have proper drainage holes.
Hanging garden containers can include everything from an old milk pail swung from a low lying branch near your front porch to moss and straw-lined window baskets lushly planted with beautiful flowers and vines.
Leafy tropical Boston or Sword ferns grow well in hanging baskets, just out of the direct sun. One large specimen or an arrangement of two or three can transform a front porch into a magnificent green oasis and look beautiful against a backdrop of rustic wicker furniture.
Planning your container garden. Choosing what to grow.
Flowers, shrubs, and vines:
Many colorful flowers, vines, and plants with brilliant foliage thrive in containers. If you have a color scheme in mind choose the colors you want and then do some research on which plants in those colors will do best in the containers you’ve obtained. Learn too, how much water, sun, and shade your new plants need.
An excellent source for flower selection is here.
You can have pots of your favorite herbs next to the kitchen on the back stoop, or steps, or a backyard patio. There are many herbs from which to choose. Decide on the ones you want to cook with or grow them merely for their beauty.
If you want to place herbs front and center as part of your mini-landscaping plan, their foliage and flowers are ornamental and deliciously fragrant. Many have insect repelling properties. For example:
- Bay leaf repels flies
- Chives repel garden insects like Japanese Beetles and aphids
- Dill repels aphids and spider mites
- Fennel keeps aphids slugs and snails away
- Lavender – fleas, flies, and mosquitoes
- Oregano – this kitchen staple repels many pests and dries well for winter pasta sauces.
- Basil repels houseflies and mosquitoes – it also makes fabulous pesto!
- Rosemary repels mosquitoes
- Parsley: Another must-have for the kitchen but if you are growing asparagus anywhere. Parsley repels asparagus beetles
- Thyme: Delicious in food, but mosquitoes give it a wide berth, as do whiteflies, cabbage maggots, corn earworms, whiteflies, tomato hornworms and small whites.
- Mint: Juleps or Mojitos anyone? Mosquitoes don’t like mint though.
- Lemongrass – mosquitoes don’t like it –Lemongrass contains citronella - but it’s superb in Thai dishes.
There are many more herbs – if you have loads of boxes and containers, grow them all. Some, like basil, prefer part shade, some herbs grow best in loamy, fertile soil, and others thrive best in sandy well-drained soil.
Your garden center can guide you. Alternatively, a quick check on the Internet can help you choose the best environment for your herb plants.
Vegetables grow well in larger containers with excellent drainage and good soil.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac offers the following, sage advice to gardeners who want to grow vegetables in containers:
Plant pots? The bigger, the better. While you can grow microgreens and lettuce in a window box outside your kitchen window, larger, heavier and taller plants, like tomatoes, need a broader base, and enough depth to securely insert a climbing support like a cage, trellis, or stakes.
Place vegetable containers where plants will receive 6 - 8 hours of direct sun daily.
Beans, broccoli, eggplant, carrots, onions, and radishes need a 5-gallon box. Peppers and cucumbers can grow in a one-gallon pot if there’s just a single plant.
Start your container garden with just a few plants, especially if you are new to gardening, and, of course depending on how much time you can commit.
A few flower arrangement planters, some small pots of fragrant herbs, and a couple of easy to grow veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers will give you a good start on your low maintenance gardening journey. As you gain more experience, (and success), you can add more.
Fried Green Tomatoes?
Keep an eye out for unusual “planters” as you peruse the garden centers, antique markets, and resale stores. Your garden is a creative endeavor, and one that will continuously evolve.
Enjoy the journey, and, if you grow some beefsteak tomatoes, pick a few while they are still green and fry them up for lunch.
Further reading and resources:
Celadon homeowners enjoy the camaraderie of a designated Community Garden just beside the Bridges Preparatory School on Celadon Drive. If you’d like a plot to grow vegetables, flowers, and herbs, just sign up and join in!