When we bought our first Keys home – a condo that was part seasonal rental, part weekend getaway — gardening was out of the question. A few years later, our first Keys house came with a yard full of limestone cap rock and very little topsoil.
The good news was that the previous owner had built several plant boxes in the yard, allowing eight beautiful citrus trees to flourish where they otherwise could not have survived. The bad news was that a chainsaw crew from the state’s failed citrus canker eradication program came along one day and unceremoniously removed our trees.
But they didn’t take our plant boxes, so we quickly replaced our orange, lime and grapefruit trees with pineapples, tomatoes, mangos and flowers.
As useful as they may be, our plant boxes are not usually considered typical garden “containers.” While they do provide a place to hold soil and other nutrients, they aren’t exactly portable. That’s the key.
A garden container can be anything from a small flowerpot or hanging basket to a large urn. There are clay pots, antique pots, stone pots and pottery pots. They can be found made from metal, wood, ceramic or fiberglass.
They all share one thing in common – they can be moved.
If a hurricane approaches, plants and flowers in containers can be moved to higher ground, out of the wind. If a plant is sensitive to sunlight, its location in the yard can be adjusted between the summer and winter seasons. If your bougainvillea isn’t getting enough sun, move it. If a cold front is predicted, bring sensitive plants inside.
If the mood strikes you, redesign your garden by rearranging or replacing your container plants. If space is at a premium, try hanging baskets or shelf containers or pots mounted on pedestals or posts. Experiment with different container colors, styles, materials, sizes and soils.
By creating a kind of “microclimate” in a container, you can experiment with a variety of plants, flowers, herbs and veggies. Grow your own jalapeno peppers. Season your meals with fresh basil. Start a new coconut palm.
You can bring your garden inside – or at least into your patio or porch. Create a special centerpiece for the dining table. Anything’s possible.
Open your mind by visiting local gardens. Walk around your neighborhood for ideas. Go on a house and garden tour sponsored by your local garden club. Join a club.
And don’t be shy about asking questions. You’ll be surprised how easy container gardening can be.
Locals’ advice on container gardening
We asked some members of the Marathon Garden Club for their tips on container gardening.
— Pat Greeley
— Pat Miola
— Germaine Main