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- Soothing Relief

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This morning our temperatures were in the low 70’s with a nice breeze from Hurricane Maria passing by (a long way off). The humidity was down a bit as well, so I worked in the garden getting my vegetable garden going. South Florida’s gardening season is opposite most of the Northern Hemisphere. Summer vegetables are planted in September and October, so I will have tomatoes in the winter. Hopefully. Corn is not even grown in the summer here as it is too hot for the plant to pollinate.20170924_132320

The anchor flower in this vase is a Soap Aloe (Aloe saponaria) which is supposed to be a soothing shampoo ingredient until you read up on it, seems more people are irritated by it than soothed. Stick to the Aloe Vera for relief. The Soap Aloe is the apricot and green candelabra shaped flower. The red flowers are our native Hibiscus, Turk’s Cap Mallow (Hibiscus malvaviscus). The mad funky flowers that look like Lobster Claws are Blanchetiana Bromeliad flowers – Hurricane Irma was not kind to these and I have trimmed the prettier parts for use in this vase. I have been channeling my Southern mother lately and am thinking of drying the rest and spray painting them gold for a holiday wreath. Although, that might be too funky.

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The vase is a big crystal affair that was a wedding gift – oh, many years ago from a dear friend who called the day before Hurricane Irma hit “just to hear my voice”, a truly lovely man. The components of the vase are of such a large scale (2 to 3 feet tall) I thought it called for the addition of some big tropical foliage. The smaller leaves in the arrangement are from Frangipani (Plumeria), the long reddish leaves from the Blanchetiana Bromeliad and the ferns are the ever present Asian Sword Ferns.

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The vegetable garden under construction. Hard to believe anything will grow in this ‘soil’.

A Tomato Based Limerick

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There once was a tomato in my garden,

An heirloom seedling gifted to me by the daughter of a game warden.

The seedling named Mortgage Lifter, it was said, never fails to inspire.

I waited gleefully for ripe fruit to transpire.

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The day finally dawned.

A perfectly ripe, red fruit had spawned.

The tomato was plucked

Into the kitchen it was trucked

A dinner salad was implored.

Mortgage Lifter  is patiently awaiting its fate on the cutting board.

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A tomato knife was wielded.

A perfect red slice yielded.

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The salad constructed, our forks and hearts were lifted.

Yet the mortgage was not shifted.

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.