I’ve been growing tropical plants in containers for decades, and this year is no exception. Yes, I know they likely won’t survive past October. And no, I don’t attempt to overwinter them indoors as I once did on a grand scale. But no matter. I love the way they look, and that’s reason enough to plant them.
Rains this week have put on damper on gardening, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plant. After all, putting all kinds of things in containers is something you can do regardless of weather – in the garage, on a covered patio, even between downpours. And while obvious choices include flowers and tropicals, there’s a group of plants that’s often overlooked when it comes to container planting.
Last Sunday I was having lunch with my father at his assisted living center, when out of nowhere an elderly woman shouted at me from across the dining room. “Is it time to plant tomatoes?” she asked. “Yes, and everything else that grows,” I answered, which prompted a collective chuckle from the diners. And to everyone else who’s asked me that question in the past week – in the grocery store, at the pharmacy, while walking the dog -- my answer is the same…but with one caveat.
I have a confession to make: I’m a compulsive mulcher. You might even say I’m a mulch maniac. It all started nearly 40 years ago when I used a light layer of straw to cover my first vegetable garden, something I’ve done every year since. A year later, I started using bags of chipped and shredded wood mulch in my ornamental beds, a practice that continues to this day. So clearly, I’m hooked on mulch. And you should be too.
Officially, Not everyone fancies themselves a hardcore gardener. I get that. A lot of folks are simply homeowners who want a nice looking landscape but don’t want to spend hours on end taking care of it. That’s why I came up with this list of what I call Foolproof Plants. These are plants that practically thrive on neglect, will tolerate all types of soil, are bothered by few if any pests and diseases, and, as if all that weren’t enough, they’re also beautiful.
Officially, spring doesn’t arrive until Monday, March 20, at precisely 5:28 AM. But if plants could talk, they’d tell you that it’s already here. And according to experts, they’d be right. Climate scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have confirmed that in terms of average temperatures, spring has arrived in much of the south-central and southeast areas of the country between 20 and 25 days earlier than normal. So does that mean it’s time to plant anything and everything?
Back in the mid 90s, researchers proposed a new way of planting trees that involved digging a wide, shallow, saucer-shaped planting hole that measured five times the diameter of the tree’s root ball. The idea was that roots would grow more rapidly in the monstrous planting hole, thereby enabling the tree to become established faster. Lots of so-called experts immediately jumped on the bandwagon and praised it as the most important revelation in tree planting since the invention of the shovel. But the question is, Does it really work?
For me, the 2017 gardening season officially began last Sunday. I planted potatoes and onions. I pruned some fruit trees, a few Japanese maples, and several shrubs. I spread five bales of straw in the paths of my veggie gardens. I tidied up my ornamental beds in preparation for planting. And I raked and composted well over a dozen trash cans full of leaves. Then, just as the sun was setting, I sat on the porch with a beverage and admired my accomplishments. (Full disclosure: Later that evening I also took two tabs of Aleve PM.)
Years ago it was called edible landscaping. Now it’s termed foodscaping, and basically it refers to the practice of planting edibles in and among ornamentals. It’s great for folks who don’t want to maintain a traditional veggie or herb garden, but love the idea of growing and harvesting fresh produce. And here are some suggestions for putting the practice into practice.
Not every bird is lucky enough to find a warm, cozy spot when the weather turns foul. Even those that do find shelter still need food and water to survive. And there’s a genuine payoff for gardeners who tend to their flock: The birds will call your garden home and eat everything from weed seeds to pesky plant pests.