VICTORIA - No garden, no problem is how many container gardening converts are seeing the trend toward using outdoor pots and planters for everything from lettuces and carrots to flowers and shrubs.
Kathleen Westlake, a Victoria gardener and owner of Pixie Chicks Spices, doesn't have a workable garden at her home, but rather than giving up on her hobby she uses pots and planters.
She began working with containers when she was volunteering and working with a Victoria Montessori school with their learning garden.
"I wanted to show the kids about cut-and-come-again vegetables," says Westlake. "I started toying with that idea and getting the kids to take home pots of lettuce and other veggies."
Westlake says cut-and-come-again vegetables are plants like lettuce, which instead of being harvested entirely, root and all, they can be cut 2.5 to five centimetres (one to two inches) above the soil and left to regrow.
"After trying the idea with the kids, I started selling at farmers markets. I would call them salad pots. My dad would make the pots or I would buy some round plastic pots, and I would put in some different varieties of colourful lettuces and edible flowers that I had grown from seed, and sell them."
Her customers couldn't believe it when she told them they could harvest fresh lettuce from the pots all summer long and through to Halloween.
While Westlake says many traditional gardeners may have pooh-poohed the idea of container gardening in days gone by, it has become more common among condo and apartment dwellers, including with seniors and those with mobility issues.
"For people who are physically challenged or have back problems container gardening is such a phenomenal advantage," she says.
Container gardening can also serve as a great option when space is limited, but according to Katherine Kinch, owner of Calgary's Your Space by Design, containers can also be a great decor element in an outdoor space.
When Kinch designs containers for her clients her goal is to create a design piece that can last through many seasons.
"With my containers I really like them to last a little bit longer," she says. "Our season is already so short that I incorporate perennials and shrubs into my container, and by mixing them with grasses I still achieve beautiful colour with only a few annuals."
Kinch also encourages homeowners to think beyond flowers and look at how foliage can be used to create interesting colour and dimension in an outdoor space.
"There are a lot of elements like the leaf, the stem and the branch, and if you pull from those you can make stunning arrangements," she says.
The container itself should also be considered when beginning a container garden. Kinch says a pot can be an opportunity to create a cohesive design by co-ordinating the colours of a space.
Like Kinch, Linda Petite, head gardener at Victoria's Horticultural Centre of the Pacific, says people need to know how a container may affect the health of their plants.
"The big thing with choosing a container is it has to be well drained," says Petite. "There has to be drainage holes. If they were to go and find an aluminum or tin container that didn't have any drainage holes, they'd be in trouble, because a waterlogged container is the death of a plant."
Drainage is also important to consider when filling a container with soil. Petite says a gardener shouldn't use the same soil found in a traditional garden. Instead, they should select a container mix that has good air circulation and drainage.
"The number 1 thing is that they have to remember it isn't something where they can go away for three weeks and expect Mother Nature to take care of it," says Petite.
"It has to be checked for water every single day in the heat of the summer."