Container gardening keeps patios and decks pretty.
The Iowa climate is plant-friendly depending on when, where and how you design your garden. Container gardens are the ideal way to keep seasonal color blooming at home. The range of choices is surprising, from Candycane Sorrel to stunning Passioflowers. Bulbs that you tuck into your container in the fall will reward you in spring and summer with Freesias, Daffodils, and even Tulips. If your growing space is shady, think Columbines. There are dozens of colors and shapes that grow well in containers in Iowa. If you’re a butterfly lover, plant Butterfly Milkweed or Yarrow. Bees flock to Golden Alexanders and hummingbirds will love Blue False Indigo that does well in full or partial sun.
There are veggies that will thrive in container gardens as well. Salad greens and cherry tomatoes are a great combo to start a summer salad. Lettuce, spinach, kale, endive and collards do well in cool season gardens. Herbs like spearmint, parsley, basil and rosemary are container garden favorites. Also check out Iowa State Extension for details on leafy greens you can plant. They’re great for beginners.
If you are a beginner at container gardening, brush up on some of the basics before you start. Drainage is key so that roots don’t rot underground. Lining the bottom of the planter with mid-size stones or gravel helps hold in water but avoids flooding. Also watch how the sunlight passes through the area of your patio or deck. This will help you decide whether to plant sun or shade plants, and how many hours of sun are directly on your planters. You can also turn to local nurseries for advice on what to plant and where before you shop. And, when you bring plants home, let them acclimate to their surroundings for a few days to see if they’re happy with as much shade or sun as they’re getting. Be sure to read and save your plant tags. Info on feeding and watering can be found online and at both the Des Moines Botanical Gardens and ISU Extension websites, where you can also join classes and workshops on container gardening.
You can also shop for the containers you’ll use at your local nursery or order them online. Several vendors offer a selection of sizes and prices. You don’t have to be a Master Gardener to enjoy the bounty. Just put down some roots and see what happens.