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You adore gardening, but your backyard’s the size of a half bath and worse, you have a notoriously brown thumb. What’s the solution?

It’s simple. Container gardening. Surprising as it may sound, many types of plants, with minimal care and attention, do very well in containers. There are also very hardy specimens out there that can survive even the most notorious of “brown thumbs”. Annuals, (plants that grow for only one season), are the most logical choice for container gardening and for beginning gardeners. Here’s a few ideas to get you started.

If you have a sunny location try grouping 3 or 4 of the following annuals into a container: alyssum, geraniums, snapdragons, cosmos daisy, petunias, flowering tobacco, gerbera, lobelia, morning glory, marigolds, zinnias, verbena, shasta daisies, nasturtium. If you want a bit of contrasting greenery, add a dracaena, some trailing ivy or an asparagus fern. Don’t worry too much about overcrowding. The most attractive containers are usually ones featuring half a dozen different annuals.

For a shadier location try some of these colourful specimens: dusty miller, fuschia, begonias, coleus, scented eucalyptus, French lavender,impatiens, polka dot plant, canna lily, licorice plant, waxy begonia, wandering jew. Ferns are also nice additions to any shady areas,
whether as a contrasting foliage plant in an annual grouping or all on their own in a smaller decorative or hanging pot.

Here’s a nifty idea. Get a tall, deep container or bucket and fill it with ornamental grasses like: sedum, blue fescue, northern sea oats, black mondo grass or switch grass. Since most grasses love to spread, keeping them confined in a container makes for an interesting contrast. Some of them even retain their natural colours during the winter months and are wonderfully attractive painted with frost or weighted down with snow.

Seasonal vines and creepers are also interesting choices if you have a wall or bare section in your back yard that needs some perking up. Virginia creeper grows very quickly and needs virtually no maintenance other than something to cling to. Birds love it and in the fall the leaves turn blazing orange. Very showy! If your growing area has mild winters Virginia Creeper and certain other vines might even come back the next spring!

Why not try some easy-to-grow vegetables and herbs? Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, beans, spinach, lettuce, oregano, parsley, onions, garlic, sage, English cucumbers, lemon balm, thyme -- those are just a few herbs and vegetables that can be harvested from containers. Most vegetables enjoy full or at least partial sun. Group one or two together, depending on the size of your container. Certain herbs enjoy periods of shade. Check the tags for light requirement when you buy the plants, or ask the experts at your local greenhouse or garden centre. Regular fertilizer applications every few weeks and you’ll have your own mini bumper harvest by late summer or early fall.

Some things to remember about annuals and container gardening:

1) more frequent watering is required.
2) ornamental grasses grow very tall. Use taller pots to accommodate their height. Adding an inch or two of gravel before filling container with soil should keep the pot more stable.
3) choose containers that have adequate drainage.
4) don’t forget to fertilize.
5) you don’t need to spend a fortune on containers. Shop around. Re-cycle. Discarded barrels, buckets, and tubs are ideal for annuals.
Check out local flea markets and garage sales.
6) have fun! Your only limitation is available space -- and your imagination!!