How to create an award-winning container garden

Winner 2012 container garden Lewiston NY with Sally Knize“Let your inner zany self come out,” said Kay Kalick, describing what you must do to create an award-winning container garden.

Kalick is coordinating the container garden contest to be held as part of the Lewiston GardenFest from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24. The GardenFest includes a garden walk, vendors and speakers.

The container contest is judged by the public and awards will be presented at 4 pm. Sunday, June 24. Prizes are merchandise and gift certificates donated by local business and garden centers.

The deadline to enter is June 20. Get an entry form for the container garden contest here.

Start your container garden right away so that it has time to become lush and full for for the contest, said Donna Brok, a member of the Lewiston Garden Club, which sponsors the GardenFest.

There will be two categories in the contest: traditional and whimsy.

“I’m more whimsy,” Kalick said, but pointed out that it doesn’t matter what her tastes are– winners are chosen by the public. Anyone, even children can vote, and that may have given the edge to Sally Knize of Lewiston who won with her Oscar the Grouch garden in a garbage can, seen above.

“Don’t be afraid to experiment,” added Brok. Using an unusual container “makes the presentation different and creative.”

Check out the child’s wagon below right, which was used as the container for the entry from Opportunities Unlimited. Opportunities Unlimited container garden Lewiston NY

Found objects, such as a lunch box or toy dump truck, can be used.

Make sure your container has proper drainage, Brok said. You can drill drainage holes in your container, or set a smaller container inside your decorative container. Oscar’s trash can wasn’t filled with dirt; it simply held a smaller container.

You can use just about anything for your container garden. Just make sure that all the plants you choose have the same sun and water requirements– check the plant tags. You can use small perennials, annuals and grasses. Don’t forget that you can include herbs and even vegetables, as we discussed last week with our “lettuce bowl” planter.  For some suggestions on annuals that do well in containers, check out this article. For a planter that you want to display in the shade, “little hostas” are a fun choice.

Don’t forget that fairy gardens and terrariums are container gardens, too.

Here are more tips for container gardens from the Lewiston Garden Club:

  • Buy good quality potting soil; don’t use garden soil. Many garden centers or nurseries prepare their own mix– buy that.
  • Arrange your plants the way you would arrange flowers in a bouquet. Use different elevations and textures.
  • If you’re using a large container, fill the bottom one-third or one-quarter of the container with packing peanuts. Your container will be lighter and it will be easier to move.
  • Place an inexpensive baby diaper in the bottom of your container. Once it gets wet, it will hold moisture and you won’t have to water as often.
  • Keep your container garden moist. Stick your finger in deep and water if the soil is dry.
  • Feed your garden; frequent watering washes the nutrients from the soil.

To get more ideas, go to container gardening in our list of topics that you see in the column to the right. You’ll see an article on this year’s Succulent Show at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, where they used an old ash tray and a bedroom dresser as containers. Another article from the last year‘s Lewiston GardenFest shows how Marlene Craft used watering cans as planters.

For more ideas on containers you could use, check out my Pinterest page. I have a board dedicated to container gardens where you’ll see boots, tea cups and even books used as containers.

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