Woman with trowel: The joys of patio gardening

An informal container garden. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

Before we moved into this house, my husband and I spent years in an apartment in the Arbutus/York area of Kits. Our ground level patio faced north. We turned it into an abundant container garden that started us gardening and kept us happy.

There are advantages to gardening in pots. You can do a little or a lot. You can adjust the soil composition for the needs of each plant. And you can move things around, depending upon the season and your mood. With pots raised up on bricks and stumps, you can create dimension and a feeling of abundance that might not seem likely. With the smaller area of a patio, you can sit closely among your plants. The feeling of sitting in the lushness is what I miss most about that garden.

Cematis blooms next to a carex. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

There are also some disadvantages. Soil in small pots will dry quickly during the summer, even in the shade. Saucers under the pots help, but you are still looking at watering every other day at best. Bigger pots have more soil and can hold more moisture, but they will need regular attention.

Proper pot drainage is a concern during times of heavy rainfall. You don’t want your plants sitting in water, so the saucers have to go during the winter, with containers raised up on pot feet. Plants in pots will need to be fertilized, as they have less to work with in their contained spaces.

Contrasting foliage in a shade garden. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

Plants in containers have less protection against winter cold. The easiest remedy for this is to buy plants that have a cold endurance two grades lower than your area’s low temperatures. For example, if you live in a zone 8 area, keeping your purchases to at most zone 6 plants will mean that they will survive the winter and you will not need to fret over them every time we get a cold snap.

Oxalis, baby’s tears and one of the many advantages to having a carver for a husband. Photo credit: M. Brehaut

For years I had thought that because I lived in an apartment, I could not have a garden. Then I tried pots. Then I tried more pots. I was restricted to shade plants because of my location, but I loved that garden. I relocated most of the plants when we moved here and they continue to grow and to please us. That is another advantage to patio gardening – you can take your plants with you when you go.

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