Gardening: Gardening in a warming country this winter

Heading to a warmer country for the winter means the possibility of gardening year round. Unless one is renting a large property, expect to be gardening in containers and pots that are located on a deck or patio.

As with any container garden, the pot makes a large difference in the overall look of the garden.

A continuity in container materials or colors can change a jumble of containers into a garden.

The size of pot matters.

The plant and pot should be in balance. Larger pots might need to be watered less often but if the pots are too large for the plants the garden will look sparse.

Watering a container garden in a different climate might be a challenge as temperature, type of sunlight, soil and humidity all make a difference in how fast moisture evaporates from the soil.

In an area with low humidity, water will evaporate quickly but this is not the case in humid climates.

While rain is a good for plants, it is rare that enough rain falls to soak a pot.

Do not miss a watering on the assumption that the plants received enough rain water.

Even the type of pots play a part in the moisture holding capacity of the soil.

Glazed and plastic pots hold in the moisture while unglazed clay and wooden containers will wick the moisture from the soil.

For this reason it is best to place plants that can be easily overwatered in an unglazed pot.

To avoid under or overwatering plants, check the moisture level of the soil in each pot before watering.

Plants that are actively growing need a readily accessible supply of nutrients.

Chemical fertilizer is a light weight, inexpensive solution. Either purchase a balanced fertilizer or one that is recommended for a specific type of plant.

Salts will build up in the soil when fertilizer is used on a regular basis. To remove the salts from the soil, pour enough water into the pot to allow the water to flow through the soil and out the holes in the pot.

Excess fertilizer and salts will be flushed out with the water.

Choose plants that will thrive in the amount of light available.

If in doubt look at what others have planted or talk to the local gardeners especially the ones that look after the main gardens in the complex.

Typically the gardens will have extra replacement plants to share and loan for patio gardens. Having renters that garden and beautify the place is a bonus.

Other patio gardeners are likely to share plants and information about where to purchase plants and materials.

Arranging plant pots is similar to planting a garden except moving the plant does not require digging up and transplanting.

When placing the plants, avoid the urge to line the pots up in a row.

Placing the pots together, mixing the size and shape of the plants as one does when planting in the ground will change a row of plants into a garden.

Adding bird feeders, bird baths and other types of ornamentation that enhances the plants and building will complete the garden.

Look at any complex in Puerto Vallarta Mexico and it is easy to spot the gardeners by the greenery and flowers poking over an between the rails.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House.She can be reached at

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