The County of Brant Public Library has put on a free four-part Garden Glory Series for the month of March.
The workshops covered a range of topics such as weeds, vegetable gardening, container gardening and the final will be learning about roses and how to care for them.
Close to 20 people attended the Water-wise and Container Gardens workshop held at the Paris Branch of the County of Brant Public Library/Paris public library on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
Diane Hutchinson of Walter’s Greenhouses and Garden Centre gave a detailed presentation outlining the basics of container gardening and how to conserve water while do so. Hutchinson discussed a variety of tips and tricks surrounding pot and container size, drainage, soil, amendments, light conditions, watering and plant types.
“People like container gardening, but we also want to be water-wise,” she said. “People think that with container gardening you have to go out and water every day, but there are different things that you can do that can lessen the amount of water you use, and make certain that the water gets right down into the container where it needs to be and it make it a lot easier on the environment, while making less work on your part.”
When it comes to picking a pot, Hutchinson recommended the bigger, the better. She also pointed out that you should think about whether you want to use a saucer or legs under the pot for drainage and notes that the material will also determine how much work you put in.
Terra cotta pots create a dryer environment ideal for herbs, while dark plastic pots help to keep in the heat perfect for growing tomatoes and white pots won’t use up as much water. Mulching the top of your container set up with grass clippings will also help to lock in moisture.
She also mentioned using growbags and even bags of soil cut open to grow shallow rooted plants like lettuce.
When it comes to drainage, Hutchinson said that stones at the bottom of pots don’t help and that they tend to create a lake at the bottom of the container. She suggested coffee filters, landscape fabric and even an old t-shirt rather than using stones to help stop soil from coming out of the drainage hole.
For soil, it depends on your project but garden soil should be avoided when working with containers.
“Garden soil goes into the garden and potting soil goes into the pots,” she said. “Potting soil has vermiculite, perlite, calcined clay – it has all of those different particles so when water comes through, it goes through. If you use plain old garden soil, it will start to compact you will have a clay brick. It the garden, you have microorganisms like worms and potato bugs to break it down and have it aerate the roots. In containers, you don’t have those microorganisms and it will just compact.”
Amendments like worm castings, hen manure or Myke can also help to add back nutrients into the soil after it’s been used for a while.
Hutchinson also discussed types of plants to pick when it comes to filling your container garden. “Spillers” will spill over the container, “fillers” are used to fill up space, and “thrillers” are the plants that make a statement alongside specimen plants.
It is recommended to look at what each plant prefers as far as soil type, as well as water and lighting, and pair those that are similar with each other.
Hutchinson also talked about responsible watering practices such as watering in the early morning, using a rain barrel to collect rainwater, watering deeply and mulching the tops of the container.
The Brant County Public Library puts on a monthly theme of workshops every month to offer the community a free resource to learn about new subjects.