We’re bringing to you the interview with Brad Kemp – the expert in Container Gardening. Enjoy!
Q1: What is your personal goal re: gardening?
I think I’m always striving to try new things, new varieties of flowers and even new ways to grow them. In my mind, I always have this huge goal of walking through the gate to our backyard and gazing upon a grand display of perennials and annuals with my little raised bed garden in the back just full of vegetables. Have I ever seen that portrait that’s painted in my mind? No. But I sure am striving to get there. I may never make it, but that goal keeps me working, forever attempting to get it just the way I see it in my mind. And in the end, that constant work makes for a pretty decent looking yard that I could just sit and look at all day.
As well, I’m extremely conservative with money. One of my major goals every year is to try and spend as little money as possible. That’s why a few years back I started doing winter sowing and growing my own plants indoors. I’ll do about anything to save a dollar when it comes to gardening. (Like parking by a dumpster and pulling out a perfectly fine container that I can’t believe someone would throw away. Dirty work….but I just can’t stop myself!!)
Q2: Why container gardening?
Of all the various types of gardening, I believe that gardening in containers offers EVERYONE an opportunity to enjoy a garden, regardless of space or ability.
For example, if you have no yard, you can use containers. Or, if you have yard space and want more, use containers. Balconies, porches, small entryways or even a full-blown flower garden that needs just a “touch” of something can benefit from the beauty and diversity of containers.
As well, with container gardening, no weeds! (Well, most of the time!!) How about location? If you don’t like the exact area you have your planter, or it needs more or less sun, it’s so easy to move it to a different spot.
Q3: How has your life changed since the beginning of the “container gardening” strategy?
In my beginning years of gardening, I honestly thought that container gardening “looked” easy. I just figured you got a pot of soil, planted some flowers in it, and a mini-garden would begin. Little did I know at the time, that containers have several challenges that would certainly cause a few gray hairs. But even when I was in the middle of those strong challenges, I took it as just that….a challenge. I just knew that if I could get the hang of growing in containers, that I would open up a whole new door to what our home/garden would look like. And that’s exactly what has happened. So many possibilities have opened up and I always look so forward to planting in them every year!
Q4: Lots of information about container gardening is on your website, but if you could point out the biggest challenge that you’ve had while container gardening, what would it be and how did you/do you work around it?
Still to this day, I’ll have a plant or a whole container just up and die. Most of my projects seem to do well nowadays, especially the plants I grow myself. But every year there is always something that goes wrong somewhere and a single plant or maybe even everything in the container will die. The challenge is to know why and correct it so it won’t happen again.
But, there are so many diseases and fungi out there, that to pin-point what actually happened is hard. Sure we (and every one of our neighbors) can all guess, but to really know the exact cause I believe is very difficult. What I’ll usually do, is discard the soil in that pot and clean it before using it the next time. That will eliminate any soil-borne diseases that might be lingering in the pot. In the end, we may never really know why something died. The plant could have had something wrong with it, if and when, it was purchased at the nursery, etc.
Q5: Any other quick tips for people trying container gardening for the first time?
- Always make sure the container is large enough for the matured plant/s. Often people will plant a new flower into a pot not considering the size it will be by the end of summer. Plant roots need as much room as possible for the plant to do it’s best.
- Be creative with what you plant in! Containers can be made from almost any thing…just make sure it has sufficient drainage.
- Use a good fertilizer. The soil in a container can be leached of much needed nutrients rather quickly. Since the plants can only draw from the soil in the container, if those nutrients are washed away by rain and watering, for example, the only way the plants can get their nutrients is through a fertilizer.
- Lastly, but probably the most important is…Keep up with watering!! I’ve seen potted flowers die in just a couple of days in the dead of summer. I think the best and easiest thing to do, is to saturate the soil until water is running out the drainage holes. Let the pot stand a day or so, then poke your finger into the top inch or two of soil. If it’s moist, leave it alone. If it’s dry, water it. Just don’t let the container dry out too much. Unlike traditional roots in the ground, the roots of potted plants have such a small amount of soil from which to draw moisture .
In closing, I’ve read and talked to a lot of gardeners who say..”oh, I won’t do container gardening, everything that I plant always dies.” To that I would say, “so what…just try again!” Because design combinations are endless and the benefits of mobility, their sheer beauty, and the numerous places that a container can be placed, are so huge that I think everyone would be glad they tried this amazing and fun way of gardening!
I would like to thank Brad for taking time to answer our questions.
For more information about Container Gardening check Brad's website
-- Michal, http://gardentenders.com