Container Gardening Information for the Treasure Coast

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Last week I gave a talk to the Hibiscus Circle of the Stuart Garden Club about container gardening. The Treasure Coast of Florida operates basically opposite of the rest of the US in terms of gardening. Our gardening season is moving into full swing now. I have just planted tomatoes and vegetables and will be renovating my containers as we move outside for the winter. Below is the omnipresent theory for Container Design.

 

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I find this concept to be sound advice. Planted in an 18″ container, a 6″ nursery pot with a thriller and two 4 or 5″ nursery pots with a filler and a spiller make a wonderful addition to your front door step, porch or outside seating area. Plant selection is another story. More about specific plants later. As far as planting the container goes, see below for the idea:

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Tips and tricks for planting containers include:

  • Always use potting soil.
  • If the container is going outside, be sure there is a drainage hole and cover the hole with coffee filters and pebbles to keep the potting soil in the pot.
  • When planting an oversize container, the bottom can be filled with Styrofoam noodles separated with coffee filters or weed check fabric to keep the soil around the plants in the upper part of the pot. Always maintain a 12″ depth of soil in pots to keep watering chores to a minimum. The exception to this rule, Bromeliads, Orchids and succulents can be grown in less soil.
  • Allow an inch of soil from the rim and keep soil level an inch below the rim of the container.
  • Add time release fertilizer after planting, 13-13-13 is best for our area and lasts longer in the heat.
  • Check container daily and water accordingly, many containers need daily watering.

RECOMMENDED PLANTS FOR CONTAINER GARDENING:

Tropical Plants: Many tropical plants thrive in containers on the Treasure Coast. There are many kinds of Bromeliads and Aglaonema, all of the plants pictured require a shaded area.

 

 

 

 

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Many annual flowers are good for use in containers, they generally don’t last the summer here so be prepared to renovate your containers every 4 to 6 months. Here are a few plants to consider:

 

 

 

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Vegetables and herbs are great plants for containers. Many vegetable gardeners use containers exclusively to avoid weeding and backbreaking labor in soil preparation. Notes on seed packets and vegetable plants will sometimes include recommendations for container sizes.

Herbs for Treasure Coast Gardens:

 

 

 

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There are many other herbs that can be grown here. Fresh herb plants appear in the big box stores and garden centers this time of year. I grow what I like to eat. My favorites are:

Basil: I always have a pot of Basil around, my preference is basic Sweet Basil with the large green leaf. It can be called Genovese or Napletano. I also like Greek Columnar Basil but it can be difficult to find. Basil lasts about 3-4 months in a container so I replace mine quarterly.

Bay Leaf: My first attempt with Bay Leaf failed, I planted it in the ground and it did not flourish. I bought two more and they have happily provided Bay Leaf from their perch in a terracotta pot. Bay Leaf plants can be difficult to find in our area so buy them online. Be careful to buy the culinary Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis) – there are other types used for decorative purposes and not to eat.

Dill: Dill is a favorite for use in soups or with sauteed vegetables or fish. A tall, ferny plant this is a cool season plant and will go to seed in the late spring. The seeds are a bonus and can be used in breads or saved to grow more Dill next fall.

Parsley: I prefer Italian Parsley (flat leaf) for flavor, Curly Parsley can be easily grown here as well. This is a cool season plant and will grow here from October until late spring.

Rosemary: Rosemary lasts year round in a pot. Eventually, it needs replacement – I consider this maintenance as we eat a lot of Rosemary. I like the flavor of the upright plants rather than the creepers.

Thyme: Thyme is another cool season herb. I may have managed to get it to live through a whole year once, but this requires a lot of attention in the summer. My attention tends to wane as the humidity rises. I prefer the Lemon Thyme to German for the flavor.

My Fall Containers are currently under construction, I will work on another post when they are complete.

For more information about Garden Design follow this link https://theshrubqueen.com/garden-design-and-consulting/

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In A Vase on Monday – Dilly Dally Daisy?

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The Dill is still blooming madly in the herb container so I could not resist cutting some more and dilly dallying through the garden looking for something different to accompany the Dill. I added some sprigs of Rosemary from the herb containers and the rest of the vase is composed of wildflowers from the garden, some I planted and others appeared without encouragement from me.

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Joining the Dill and Rosemary are: In yellow, Beach Sunflowers (some call them Beach Daisies Helianthus debilis); in red, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); I planted both of these native wildflowers. In blue, the native Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum); the white flowers are Spanish Needles (Bidens alba). The Ageratum and Spanish Needles just pop up at an alarming rate. Seemingly from thin air.

My husband’s comment about this ” a very perky arrangement” There is something cheerful and perky about wildflowers and especially daisies. There aren’t really daisies in the vase, but the resemblance is clear. The vase is a thrift store find and I like the hot colored flowers displayed in earth tone pottery. With the Rosemary, Dill and Salvia this vase is leaving a lovely herbal scent in my foyer.

 

 

 

In A Vase on Monday – It’s A Dilly

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It’s a Dilly, is that an American phrase? As far as I know, Dilly translates into it’s remarkable, notable or wonderful. Sources on the Internet say this is Canadian or American slang. Vasers will tell.

This vase is all about my herbs, I am mourning the impending passing of my Dill plant (this plant has been wonderful) this week. I love fresh Dill with salads, fish, tomato cucumber salad and on and on It has been flowering for at least a month, I keep cutting the flowers hoping for more foliage to eat – alas to no avail. So, I decided to cut most of the flowers for a vase. Some wasps seem to like the flowers as well – I left those guys alone. I hope the wasps inspire more edible Dill.

The Heliconias (Heliconia psittacorus) nearby suffered from something so I cut back and fertilized them a week or two ago. The plants are responding nicely and their flowers have joined the Dill. Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata “Alba”) in white are flowering again and joined the dirge as well as an unnamed Bromeliad with nice red foliage and some big Ferns that popped up in the garden, again no idea what the ferns are. The red flowers are the native Turk’s Cap Hibiscus (Hibiscus malvaviscus pendiflorus)that rewards me with flowers with the least bit of attention. I watered them!

The vase is a gift from my dearly departed older brother. Always a bittersweet reminder of that makes me miss him. Though I am certain he would be happy I am using the vase and thinking of him.

Here is a close up:

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It’s a Dilly!

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In A Vase on Monday. Thrift Store Finds

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Another one of those things I never knew about living in South Florida-the thrift store shopping is excellent. I suppose many estates are settled here and the population is somewhat transient as people buy and sell vacation condos don’t use them very much and then don’t want to move the furniture. A result of all this makes for some unusual and great thrift store finds. Especially if you are in the market for pseudo tropical furniture.

I was actually looking for a table lamp when I happened upon these pottery vases. I love things that are handmade and these are a bit thick and obviously hand thrown for the fun or love or it. I bought them immediately, I spent eight dollars. Well worth it. I also found a table lamp.

While winter is approaching, actual winter in South Florida is more like a really long spring. Freezes are rare and this is gardening season. Vegetable and annual seeds are started in late summer for planting now.

One of my new vases has my first ever Cactus Zinnias, started from seed in September, these do not look nearly as good as the ones I saw in other vases this summer, I am hoping they get bigger. Also new to the garden is the Copper Fennel, which I bought by accident thinking it was Dill for my herb pots. The Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) and Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica) are old standbys.

Between the Zinnias, Salvias, Fennel and Frangipani the fragrance of this vase is a bit weird. Kind of medicinal.

 

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My other new vase has a more tropical feeling, I decided to try to avoid ferns for foliage today just for a change. This vase has Parrot Flower ( Heliconia psittacorum) and the foliage and flowers of Sweet Begonia (Begonia odorata ‘Alba’)

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Recovering the Herb Garden

 

Terracotta Herb Container

Terracotta Herb Container

I have had abdominal surgery twice in two years. This has been detrimental to the quality of my herb and vegetable garden. The last surgery was in October and (knock wood) there are no more holes in my gut to repair. Yay, I have been pulling weeds (and am able to pull weeds!-very exciting) in an attempt to reclaim my two herb beds.

These two beds were constructed a couple of years ago and contain the most fertile soil on the otherwise laughably infertile sand dune I live on. The pure fecundity and variety of the weeds I removed was astounding. What is also interesting is the Rosemary, Bay and German Thyme have all managed to survive the onslaught. Thyme isn’t even supposed to grow this far south. Go figure. I like to use all of these herbs and have clipped the tips off while allowing innundation of the rest of the plant so things are a bit leggy or perhaps I will decide these are simply tree form herbs. Garden problem solving at its finest. The tree form.

Reclaimed Rosemary

Reclaimed Rosemary

I think the Rosemary will be OK. My experience with Rosemary is if cut back too hard it tends to die. Oddly enough the  Rosemary is leaning in the direction of the winter wind, it gives a sculptural effect to the plant.  I discovered the Chives had made bulbs about three times bigger than any I had seen before:

Overgrown Chives?

Overgrown Chives?

I looked at these and realized I probably have enough Chives for a restaurant. Chives, in my experience make maybe 1/2″ bulbs and retain circular foliage. These bulbs are 3 times bigger and the foliage is flat and not particularly tasty. My best guess is to divide and conquer, so I chopped them into bits and replanted them into a shadier area. Time will tell about the success of the chive chopping.

I have been using a terracotta container on my front porch for most herbs while the bigger beds languished in benign neglect. Currently the pot has Parsley, Creeping Rosemary, German and Lemon Thyme and Basil. It is close to the kitchen and a real plus is that the cats can’t get to it.

The refurbishing of the garden begins tomorrow. I have collected Lemon Thyme, Dill, Cilantro, Snow Peas and Radishes to grow with the existing Tree Formed Rosemary and Bay.

Hopefully it doesn’t rain.