Container gardeners are devoted to their craft for many reasons: Some have no land to cultivate; others just prefer to contain their gardening adventures to ceramic bowls, clay pots, and hanging baskets. Gardeners who move often like taking their gardens with them to their new residences. Still others like the ease of container gardening. There's less weeding and stooping, for example, and plants in containers are generally less susceptible to pests and diseases.
The biggest advantage of container gardens -- with the exception of most window boxes -- is their mobility. If your container tomatoes do poorly in a back corner of your yard, you can move them into brighter sunlight. And if your morning-glories wither in strong afternoon sunlight, you are free to reposition them so they get a respite in partial shade.
You can also take advantage of mobility to rotate containers frequently so every side of a potted plant receives equal sunshine for equal growth. You can even mix and match container plants to provide new arrangements as often as you're inclined. Try, for instance, a pot of dwarf sunflowers, some brilliant geraniums, or one dramatic hibiscus plant as a porch display.
Consider all container choices: stone urns, half whiskey barrels, troughs, and containers made of concrete, terra-cotta, clay, or lightweight synthetic materials. Some homeowners have created small water gardens in old claw-foot bathtubs or have used hollowed-out logs to create a miniature, rustic landscape. The choices are limited only by imagination.
When choosing containers, make sure they will be the right size for the plants you want to grow. Slow-growing plants such as conifers, evergreens, cactus, and succulents generally will be happy in containers equal to the volume of the plant. Faster-growing perennials, annuals, and many vegetables should be overpotted to accommodate root growth.
Consider plastic containers (and dollies to move them) for larger plants such as fruit trees, which in northern climates need to be moved into a garage or other sheltered place in the winter. Several large containers or many smaller ones, especially after absorbing a heavy rainfall, may put undue stress on a balcony, a rooftop, or areas of decks away from supporting posts. And watch out for the heat: Dark-color containers sear a plant's roots in areas prone to blistering hot summer days. Metal containers may also conduct too much heat and often don't hold up under the corrosive effects of salts in fertilizers.
Continued on page 2: A Portable Garden