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Date: August 21, 2006

Contact: Cassie Larson , (651) 633-4987

Creating Seasonal Containers of Interest

Many gardeners that live in the ever-changing Minnesota climate are frustrated as winter approaches and they can no longer “dig in the dirt” and enjoy the beauty of growing plants. There is a solution for that if you learn the secrets of container gardening. Using containers is the perfect way to garden all year round. It is also a low risk way of experimenting with different plants to discover exciting new combinations.

Today's homes have sun decks, barbecue areas, garden shelters, swimming pools, tennis courts, carports and private docks for boats, indicating that people are spending more time outdoors. While all of these locations are perfect, the beauty of container gardening is that you can use this concept indoors when the weather gets cold. Although container gardening is essentially old and time­less, in recent years it has evolved to suit the needs of enthusiastic gardeners.

Selecting Seasonal Plants for your Containers

To ensure your success with container gardening, make sure you select plants suited to the site. An area that receives direct sun at least 4-5 hours each day is considered full sun. Areas that get less than 4-5 hours direct sun or are sheltered from the heat of the afternoon sun are considered shady.

Need some help selecting some unique plants for your containers? MNLA gardening professionals have put together some recipes to help you succeed! Four container recipe cards have recently been posted online at www.GardenMinnesota.com/planting_ideas.htm . The recipes include: Fall Fire, Pretty in Pink, Sassy Shade, and Simple Shade. These recipe cards include a photo, a listing of plant suggestions, as well as a diagram of how to plant the materials in your pot for success! Print off a copy of the recipe card and copy it. Soon you'll be creating your own combinations.

Consider switching out your pots seasonally to continually add interest to your landscape. In the fall and winter months, select plants with a hardiness rating for colder than your temperature zone. If you are uncertain, check with your local garden center staff. Above ground containers freeze sooner than plants in the ground, leaving containerized plantings vulnerable to damage or loss if the plants are not hardy enough to withstand constant or severe freezing and thawing.

Container Selection

There are thousands of containers available for you to choose from including clay, plastic, wood, and concrete. Choose one that fits your weight, price and color qualifications. Keep in mind that plants prefer larger containers and this allows you more freedom to create mixed plantings.

Potting Soils

The potting soil that you use to fill your containers really does make a difference. Provide those beautiful plants you are putting in your pots with soil in which they can thrive. Most soils used for summer containers can also be used in fall planters, with some amendments. Keep in mind that fall planters do not require as much water as summer thirsty summer container plants, whereas summer soils need to be lighter, yet able to hold moisture.

A good potting medium for containers should be light and able to hold water without packing. When you squeeze a handful, it should spring back.

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Editor's Note: There are digital copies of the 4 recipes cards for planting containers available. Please e-mail and the digital images will be forwarded to you.

To find a garden center or landscape professional in your area, visit Minnesota's on-line gardening resource, GardenMinnesota.com.

The Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association is the state's largest green industry trade association with more than 1,500 member businesses including garden centers; landscape contractors and designers; tree and flower growers; irrigation contractors; and lawn, tree, and garden services.

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