Jul 29, 2014
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Gardening Without a Garden

No space for gardening? Try your hand at containers.

Gardening Without a Garden

Here are answers to your questions - thanks to Sarah Brodd, our Youth Education Coordinator and Gary Peiffer, County Extension Horticulture Agent.

Sharron asked:  I don’t have space to do a garden in the ground therefore I am going to try container gardening this year. What recommendations can you give me for growing vegetables and flowers in containers? Do I need special soil/additives?

Growing vegetables and flowers in containers is a great way to get the benefit of a garden setting without having to do all the heavy yard work.

Vegetables will grow well in containers. You first need to have a space that will get at least six hours of sunlight a day. When choosing vegetables to grow in containers, it's best to stick to vegetables that do not grow on vines,such as squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, and melons. Some recommended vegetables for containers are tomatoes, peppers, beans, lettuce, radishes, and carrots.

When planting vegetables you need to have a rather large pot. A seven to 10 gallon container (18-24 inch diameter pot) will give enough space for the roots of your larger vegetable plants like tomatoes and peppers. Your smaller plants, like beans and radishes, do not need such a large sized container.

One of the best parts about gardening in containers is you do not have to deal with the Georgia clay soil. You can buy a bag of potting soil and easily plant your vegetables. It's best to put some rocks or pebbles at the bottom of the container so the soil will not wash out when you thoroughly water the vegetables. When planting your vegetables handle them gently and try to break up the root ball if they seem to be root bound from their original container. If you are planting tomatoes, be sure to bury the first set of leaves under the soil, i.e. plant deep.  All other plants should be put into the soil at the same depth as they were in the original container.

It is up to you to decide if you would like to add fertilizer to your vegetables or not, but most do better if given some extra nutrients. If you would like to try the organic approach, there are many products out there for the organic gardeners.

Your bigger plants will eventually start to get top heavy, and you will probably want to stake them to keep them from falling over. Good choices to use are the round wire cages or garden stakes and ties.

Annual flowers add great color to your patio or porch and you can choose any size container that meets your space requirements, but remember to pick the right size plants. If you don't have a lot of room you should choose compact plants.  If you have a larger space you can choose trailing plants. Some popular trailing annuals are potato vines and wave petunias.

When selecting flowers for containers, you need to consider the light you have, too. Different flowers have different light requirements, and you will find a variety of annuals for sunny or shady spots. 

QUESTION: My huge yellow poplar was hit by lightning last fall. There is a large streak down the trunk to the ground and bark is now coming off. What can I do and is it possible to save this tree?

First off, have you consulted a certified arborist? Trees can survive lightning hits but over time (sometimes years) that open trunk wound can rot and the tree can become unsafe.  How long that will take no one can tell you and this may cause you to need at least an annual tree inspection. Once your damaged tree leafs out this spring, you can tell a lot by looking at the crown of the tree to see how thick the foliage is and what the size of the leaves are. If both of these are good and you have plenty of normal sized leaves, the tree can continue to close the lightning strike wound and seal off decay entry.

In other words, do NOT ignore trunk wounds and damage.  Get a professional opinion or two to make sure the tree is safe.

And a few gardening tips for May:

  • As the weather heats up, replace your pansies with a succession of hot weather annuals such as zinnias, geraniums, marigolds, celosia and portulaca. Keep deadheading to extend bloom time.
  • Trim shoots (suckers and sprouts) away from the base of crepe myrtle.
  • Fertilize roses to get a second bloom.
  • Separate irises after they bloom if they are at all crowded.

Give us your questions in the Comments section - or email Averil at abonsall@dekalbcountyga.gov - or call the Master Gardener Help Desk at 404-298-4080.

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