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    Fall Container Gardening

    by The Old Farmer’s Almanac staff

     

    Create a showstopper container garden for autumn interest.

     

    First, it’s important to understand how container plants work together. Some are upright and provide structure, while others fill in gaps or trail downward. These are known as “thrillers, fillers, and spillers” and your containers should have all three.

     

    Cold-Tolerant Container Plants

     

    Mums, flowering kale, and cabbages are classic choices for fall containers, but there are a number of plants that tolerate dropping temps, including: calendula, Cape daisies, creeping jenny, cyclamen, dianthus, dusty miller, phlox, primrose, English daisies, New Guinea impatiens, New Zealand iris, pansies,snapdragons, vinca, and violas.

     

    Beyond the Bloom

     

    Consider foliage, too. Non-flowering plants can work as backdrops for showier species. They can also add texture, depth, and height. (Such plants are often perennials, so you can leave them in pots for a few years, and just swap out the annuals—a cost-efficient planting plan.) Swiss chard, yucca, cannas, elephant ear, dracaena, and ornamental grasses make good foliage plants.

    Pick a Pot

    Choosing containers is as much fun as picking out plants! You can go with practical pots made from lightweight materials like fiberglass, plastic, or foam composites, which makes moving them easier. There are also colorful and splashy glazed pots, which are heavier but very attractive. You can even use recycled objects, like an old tin box or a little red wagon to add whimsy. Keep in mind terra-cotta pots are subject to cracking in colder climates. Also, avoid small containers, as they often can’t store enough water—large pots retain water and insulate roots.

    Must-Have Materials

    • Fine gravel, horticultural charcoal, or clay pot shards; enough for a 1-inch layer at the bottom of each pot
    • Soilless potting mix; the number of bags will depend on the number and size of your containers
    • A trowel or small spade
    • All-purpose liquid fertilizer; look for natural products like Alaska Fish Fertilizer

    Helpful Hint

    Before you get your gloves and kneepads on, place your containers where you want them to stay, as they might be difficult to move once planted.

    Step-by-Step

    1. Next to the container you are about to fill, lay out the plants as you want them arranged in the pot. (Tip: Center the upright plants, surround them with fillers, and put trailers at the edge.)
    2. Add a one-inch layer of fine gravel, horticultural charcoal, or clay shards to the bottom of the container for drainage.
    3. Fill the container ⅔ full with soilless potting mix.
    4. With your trowel or spade dig a hole in the potting mix that is a little wider than the diameter of the plant’s current pot.
    5. Starting with the center plant, knock it out of its pot and detangle its roots a bit. (If the plant is really root-bound, scratch the roots with a serrated gardening knife.)
    6. Next, plant the trailers. Then, the fillers.
    7. Add more potting mix to bring the level up to 2 inches below the container top.
    8. Repeat steps for each pot
    9. When all plants are in, water gently, pressing around the crown of each to reduce air pockets. Add more potting mix if necessary.
    10. Apply liquid fertilizer, following the instructions on the label. (Plan for biweekly applications.)

    Congratulations . . . you have an autumn container garden!