Fall container experiments and seed sharing

With the exception of Halloween, I am not good at seasonal decorating. While our front porch, all decked out with yellow-fanged rubber rats, cauldrons glowing with battery-operated fire, skeletons and bats has been known to scare the beejeezus out of trick-or-treaters, our containers and window boxes sit empty save for the summer months. Why? Honestly, I haven’t been able to figure out what to put in them.

More specifically, I want to put something different in them. Walking around our neighborhood in the fall every year, I see lots of lovely containers filled with mums and gourds, and then there are the displays of hay bales and corn stalks. Everything looks great for a few weeks, but then the mums turn brown prematurely and the gourds get moldy while the corn and hay turn soggy and black.

Determined to do something about my containers this year, I tried out a few different ideas and got mixed results. The biggest fails involved common mums. As I’ve learned in the past and just didn’t want to accept, I guess, inexpensive mums from big box stores and local nurseries are all flirty with their big blooms and warm, pretty colors. And then they turn raggedy and brown before you can say Happy Halloween. Note to self: Never again.

My best results came from reusing some of the longer-lasting annuals I planted earlier in the summer. Sometimes, all I did was combine a few of them into one large pot for a more spectacular show. Other times, I added a cool-season edible or two to pots with annuals that were still going strong, but needed the kind of kick that only lettuce, arugula, beets and kale can give. (To get faster results, I planted some edibles from seed and others as seedlings that I got at the farmers market.)

All of the annuals I like best in my fall containers are from Proven Winners. Some of my favorites are Zinfandel oxalis, a shamrock with delicate burgundy foliage and yellow flowers; several different calibrachoas from Proven Winners’ Superbells series such as Dreamsicle, Apricot Punch, Coralberry Punch and Scarlet; New Wonder fan flower; and Snowstorm pink bacopa. Truth be told, I’ve loved Proven Winners annuals ever since they sent me a big box filled with several new varieties to trial in my gardens a few years back. Without exception, every plant was beautiful, low maintenance and bloomed for months.

While I hasten to admit that my plant and edible combos need some work to look their best, I think I’m off to a good start for next year, so I’m feeling optimistic that my fall containers will no longer sit empty. Winter, on the other hand, I haven’t even started thinking about that. What are my options if I want something different than evergreens and red-twigged dogwood? Not that those don’t look good; they do. But what else can we come up with? I would love to hear your thoughts and see photos if you’ve got time to send me an email. 

Stop by and share some seeds

I just want to remind everybody that the Little Free Library on the boulevard outside my house on the corner of 45th Street and Washburn Avenue South is also a place for gardeners to share seeds. In spring and fall, the top shelf of the library will be reserved for seeds, and I’ve already put a few different envelopes out there with seeds from black-eyed Susan, purple cleome, red swamp milkweed and an heirloom sweet pea that I love called “Painted Lady.”

I’ve ordered some small envelopes to make it easy for people to take the seeds they’d like, but they haven’t arrived yet. So, for now, you’ll find small plastic cups. They’re awkward because they don’t have lids, but they’ll do for now. If you take seeds, be sure to look them up to see how/when to plant them. Email me if you’ve got any questions. And please leave seeds from your garden if you’ve got some that you’d like to share. Let’s get this seed sharing thing going! 

Get more gardening tips at Meleah’s blog: www.everydaygardener.com