Gardens flourish in small spaces with container gardening
While luxurious gardens sprawl over county fields and backyards, other bountiful gardens flourish in small spaces due to container gardening.
Former Morgan County Schools Assistant Superintendent Peggy Miller has a courtyard garden alongside her home in Berkeley Springs. The space runs the length of her house and isn't large, but her scenic courtyard is filled with many containers of colorful flowers, blossoming herbs, garden vegetables and other plants.
Miller said she learned about "container gardening and its endless possibilities" when she took the Master Gardeners class in 2001 through the Morgan County Extension Office.
Miller is a Master Gardener and also a member of the Foxglove Garden Club. She helps tend the center green area in town on Fairfax Street.
Miller grows lilac bushes in large pots and raises mostly perennial flowers, but she always has pots of zinnias, asters, nasturtiums, morning glories and other annuals. Her petunias are self-seeding and come up every year. Miller also does a variety of herbs and garden vegetables.
All of her plants are grown organically. Miller said she uses lots of horse manure. She also grows azaleas, boxwood and blueberry bushes in the area by her fence. They aren't grown in containers.
"My garden is like an orchestra. Different parts come in at different times. There's always something blooming," said Miller.
Miller grew up on a farm in New Hampshire and loves to garden. She had a garden when she was little. Her family grew all the food they ate and her mother canned everything, she said.
Miller grows cherry tomatoes and green peppers in pots and has tried squash and cucumbers in containers. They need a lot of room with their vines, she said.
She also plants onion sets around her lilacs and has green onions all summer for salads. Other delicacies from Miller's garden are leeks, garlic, swiss chard, parsley, spinach and a variety of lettuce grown in a raised bed.
Miller has dill, mint, savory, rosemary, fennel, parsley and basil in containers in her courtyard. She makes a lot of basil pesto.
"It's just so satisfying even in a small space growing what you eat," said Miller.
Because her brick courtyard is walled in with a wooden fence, Miller doesn't get any deer or varmints in her garden.
Miller feeds the birds all summer long and through the winter too. She has three birdhouses in her courtyard that house some wrens that "squawk and carry on." Miller keeps her birdbaths full in the winter.
"The birds are always drinking from them," she said.
When Miller learned about container gardening, she said she never dreamed of the potential. Container gardening works especially well for those who have small yards and poor soil, she said.
Plants need at least six hours of sunlight a day and pots must be watered more frequently, said Miller. During the winter, she moves the pots to a corner of her courtyard where they keep for the winter without covering.
Use plastic or metal pots because clay will crack in the winter, she said. Millers scouts for plant containers at yard sales, where they're found in plenty.
Miller groups her plants in a protected area of her courtyard for the winter. You can also put your container plants up against the south side of your home for over-wintering, she said.
Polymer can be purchased at garden nurseries to add to containers so they hold more water. The roots absorb moisture from the beads, said Miller. Be careful not to put in too many because they swell, she said.
Miller has experimented with different sizes and types of containers. She uses plastic wastebaskets, dishpans and round laundry baskets which she lines with plastic liners. The dishpans are wonderful for growing pansies, she said. You have to put holes in the containers and aerate them, she said.
"As long as you have enough space for the root system, they'll do well," said Miller.
Miller discovered that "you don't have to grow in rows. You can utilize small spaces."
Manage the size of the plant by the size of the container, she said. If you want to increase a plant's size, increase the container size to give its roots room to grow.
Miller has a flowering almond bush that she said is gorgeous in the early spring. She kept repotting it with larger containers as it grew.
Miller has benches in her courtyard garden where she likes to sit and watch the birds, hummingbirds and butterflies. She has a hummingbird feeder, but the hummingbirds are mostly busy at the rainbow array of flowers and blossoms that are abundant in Miller's garden.