By Debbie Clark

It’s that time of the year when gardeners are getting excited about gardening again. The flowers, shrubs and trees are arriving in the nurseries and all those orders placed online with nurseries are arriving on our doorsteps. The gardening season has official started for another year.

Growing plants in containers has always been popular with gardeners. You can grow vegetables, herbs, bulbs, small trees and lots of flowers in containers. But how do you plant and design a container garden? Here are some easy steps to follow:

Containers come in many types of materials from plastic, terracotta, glazed, cement, fiberglass, metal and wood. When selecting your container, consider size and how much it will weigh once it has been filled with soil. A large heavy pot can be hard to move. Some containers, like terracotta and glazed can be damaged by cold weather and will need some protection during the winter. When selecting containers always make sure that your container has a drain hole in the bottom. Container gardens need good drainage. Look for containers with great color and design that will enhance your garden or can be used as focal points in the garden. Get creative when selecting containers and take a look around the house for something unusual you can recycle into a container.

Soil is the most important part to successful gardening. When selecting soil for containers, use a good quality commercial potting mix for containers. Select your soil based on your preference of being an organic gardener or if you prefer to have fertilizer already in the mix. Soil can be used for several years by adding additional soil to the container and adding fertilizer. Think organic, when it comes to fertilizing. Container gardens will need fertilizing several times during the growing season.

Now that you have your soil and container, the next step is selecting plants. Select plants for your container that have similar water and light needs. Do not mix sun loving plants with shade loving plants. You are just setting yourself up for disappointment. The same goes for plants that need lots of water and those that do not. Select plants that complement each other in color, pattern and texture. When selecting plants, look for flowering plants that have lots of buds and fewer blooms. Select plants that are healthy, disease and insect free with healthy root systems.

When you start to plant your container, remember these three words – Filler, Spiller and Thriller. A “spiller” is a plant that will hang down the sides of the container, the “thriller” will be the tallest plant centered in the container and the “filler” are plants that will fill out the container.

After your container is planted, place it in the garden and water it thoroughly. Planted containers should be checked for water daily. If you travel, work or sometimes forget to check your containers for water, you may want to consider installing drip irrigation with a timer to water your containers.