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Winter Container Gardens

Container gardening is a great way to make the most of your gardening space. This type of gardening makes for a more efficient use of space, which is great for people living in close quarters. Plus, since your garden is in containers, it is much easier to move your garden around as it suits your needs.

Finding a Container
Not all containers are the same. So before you rush out and buy the prettiest one you can find, there are a few things you need to consider first.

Just where you want to have this garden is important. Will it be outside all year or are you willing to bring it inside during the winter months? If the garden is to remain outside during the winter, then think of what the weather is like in the city where you live.

If you enjoy the mild climate of southern California, then you probably won't have to worry too much about your plants or containers freezing. But if your winters are spent wrapped up in a down-filled parka with layers upon layers of clothing underneath, then some outdoor pots will be out.

Clay and ceramic containers are always popular but they will crack in cold conditions. Concrete and stone containers will hold up against any weather but aren't easily portable. Plastic can withstand a variety of temperatures and is light enough to move around easily.

However, spend the money for the heavy duty stuff; cheaper plastic containers may save you a few dollars but it's also more likely to break quickly. While these are the most common types of containers, virtually anything can be used – wooden boxes, oil drums, barrels - even old shoes.

Ins and Outs of Containers
Regardless of which type of container you choose, make sure it has an adequate drainage system. There should be holes in the bottom of the container through which water can escape. Raise the container up off the ground for better drainage. On the other end, you should avoid containers that have narrow openings. The wider the opening, the easier it is for you to get at your plants.

The overall size of the container should allow for adequate room for your plants' roots to grow. If you are growing plants that have deep roots, even if it is just one or two, then look for a pot that is quite deep. Finally, plants that are in containers tend to freeze faster than those that are planted in the ground. If you plan to keep your container garden out during the winter, or at least on colder nights in the fall, then you may want to consider wrapping the container with some type of insulating material, like burlap or an old blanket.

Now that you have your container all picked out, it's time to buy some plants to fill it with. Obviously, you'll want to pick plants that look nice together. If you're looking for a specifically winter themed container, then consider using evergreens, ivy and holly. Other good choices include pansies, primrose, Erica carnea and Erica darleyensis as these can also bloom in the winter (these plants are recommended for people living around zone 4). Placing plants of varying sizes in the same container can be especially beautiful – you'll have your very own mini garden.

If you get started early enough, you can even plant a few crops. Some vegetables that do well in containers include swiss chard, broccoli, lettuce and brussell sprouts. If you plan to keep your containers outside, then consider planting some cabbage and kale. The color of the plant actually intensifies as the temperatures start to dip. However, if you want to harvest your crops, then take them inside when the first frost hits. While they don't need to be kept exceptionally warm, exposure to frost will ruin the vegetables.

Potting and Plant Care
Before you place your plants in your containers, lay some broken clay pot pieces to help the water drain out. Next, put in a layer of soil followed by your plants and then some more soil. Stop when the soil is about 1cm below the edge of the container. If you already have a garden, then just transplant some soil from there to your container. If you don't have a backyard garden, or you're a bit late getting started and the ground has already frozen over, then pop down to your local home improvement store and pick up a bag.

Don.t worry about using fertilizer in the winter. Since you only need to water your plants about once a week, the soil is better able to retain its nutrients. During the summer, though, it may be necessary to water your container garden as often as everyday. Regularly check your plants to see if they need watering by feeling the soil. If it is very dry, then you need to get out the watering can. You'll know your plants have had enough water when it starts to escape through the bottom.

If you are looking to have specifically a winter container garden, then it is best to get started on it in the early fall. This way, your plants have enough time to grow and establish themselves by the time winter arrives. Although growing plants need lots of sunshine, mature plants are usually happy with however much or little sunshine they receive, which is good news for winter gardeners. In fact, plants that have colorful foliage, berries or bark are happy being partly shaded or even completely shaded.

Evergreens - For That Wintry Feel
If you have harsh winters, you can also put together beautiful containers that will last the whole season by simply taking branches of evergreen trees such as pine, spruce and cedar. Place them in pots and add pinecones and sprigs of berries. When the snow settles on these branches, these simple arrangements look magnificent. Container gardening is a great and simple way to keep the beauty of plants in your life all year long. Get your garden started today.

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