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Newbie to CO & Gardening

Posted by containermama CO (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 13, 10 at 18:16

Hello! I am fairly new to both Colorado and gardening. This year, I want to make a really awesome container garden. What would you veterans recommend that I start with? I want some veggies, some flowers, herbs and maybe a tree or two.

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RE: Newbie to CO & Gardening

  • Posted by skybird z5, Denver, CO (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 13, 10 at 19:47

Hi Mama,

How big (including how deep) will your pots/containers be? How much direct sun do you have? Will this be on a balcony or roof, or down on the ground? Where are you located? (And where did you move here from to give us an idea of the conditions you're used to.)

Just need some more info to try to help you! :-)

Welcome to RMG,

RE: Newbie to CO & Gardening

From one Colorado container-gardener to another, let me send out a BIG caution: Colorado is DRY. Now, I would bet you have already noticed that, but your plants will notice it much more. The questions that Skybird asked are key, but also key is how will you water, and how often. I am blessed to have over 90% of my garden in self-watering containers, and even with 4 1/2-gallon reservoirs, the tomatoes and tomatillos need to be watered twice per day in the hottest months. Of course, I could rig a "watering system," but that's just nuts, and believe me when I say it wouldn't be pretty. Another watering item to consider is unglazed versus non-porous containers--the former will evaporate water even faster than plastic or glazed pots.

Different pots will give different aesthetics--tomatoes do fine in a 5-gallon bucket (and can also be moved to protection in the event of hailstorms or early freezes), and if you pack enough "cutsies" around it, you might not even see much of it. Color of containers is also a consideration, because there is so much sun that a darker container may heat the soil more than your plants might like. I happen to love my Garden Patch Grow Boxes, and they come in green and "terra cotta" colors. They're a little spendy, but worth every penny to me--and a pot that size from any garden center will run you just as much, if not more. (I don't recommend their staking kits, though you will most definitely need to support 'maters, peppers, and even some flowers!)

Please post back and let us know what you end up doing!

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Patch website

RE: Newbie to CO & Gardening

And to add to mayberry's excellent list, it may be best to shade the containers as well. The larger the pot, the better. And my self-watering containers didn't need twice daily, but certainly need attention daily; non-SWCs need daily watering for sure (which almost requires you to mix larger pieces of bark into your soil). And wide bases if doing tomatoes, as the wind will knock them over guaranteed.


RE: Newbie to CO & Gardening

I would say MULCH!!! Whatever you decide to do, mulch those pots or they'll need watering 2-3 times a day. I did containers for a while before we got our house and those plants ate up water like nothing else. I wish I'd known how amazing a simple layer of straw can be!

RE: Newbie to CO & Gardening

Up until two years ago, all of my gardening was done in containers. Here are some things I learned:

1) Don't use black or dark containers of any size. They get way too hot in the intense Colorado sun. However you can mitigate this problem by wrapping the outside of such pots with a couple of layers of burlap. It looks silly but it works.

2) Plants that tolerate partial shade work well because they can be kept on a protected porch, away from hail, wind, etc.
I've kept a bonzai'd Austrian pine on my south facing front porch year-round for almost seven years now.

3) Grouping the pots close together helps keep the moisture level up a tad. And the larger the pot, the better. Anything under five gallons is at risk of drying out.

4) Fill up the bottom third of tall containers with bricks, rocks, or empty glass bottles to save $$$ on soil. Don't use bubble wrap or other lightweight material, as the containers will get knocked over in the wind.

5) Veggies that worked for me: cherry tomatoes, peppers. Fruits = Fort Laramie strawberries, Heritage raspberries. (The latter didn't produce as much as I'd like, but didn't die, either.)

6) Other plants that worked well: Blue spirea, marigolds, "Munstead" lavender, "Kim's knee-high" purple coneflower, coreopsis, mums, violas, pansies, California poppies.

7) As to watering -- It all depends on the weather and location, but a good rule of thumb I use is to water generously in the morning, and again in the late afternoon. The Earthbox I used for tomatoes last year was awesome, in that it had a huge reservoir in the bottom which made for decent fruit production.

8) I also learned that all that watering leaches out nutrients, so it's a good idea to use a liquid fertilizer regularly. I use Age Old Organics products, but I'm sure that there are many others out there that would do just as well.

9) Finally, what soil you use can make a huge difference. I found that regular potting soils worked fine (the soil with "moisture retaining crystals" isn't really neccesary) but have now switched to Pro-Mix combined with kitchen compost for impressive results.

Best wishes,


RE: Newbie to CO & Gardening

Forgot to add that "Yukon Gold" potatoes, yarrow, and many varieties of mint do excellent in containers. (potatoes were grown in a large tupperware bin on the north side of the house) Also, we have neighbors that summer their dwarf lemon and lime trees on their south-facing protected porch.

SW Colo. 8000 ft. Help

Full sun, only have sprinkler for garden. 35 acrers of ponderosa pines and scrub oak. and DIRT. Any ideas about getting some ground covered so that the dirt doesnt fly into the house?

RE: Newbie to CO & Gardening

  • Posted by skybird z5, Denver, CO (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 16, 10 at 16:34

ttkc, start a separate thread to ask your question and you'll get more help. More people will see it that way.

Just click on the "post a message" link on top of the Rocky Mountain Gardening forum page to do it.


RE: Newbie to CO & Gardening

Last year was my first year gardening in CO, and I used self-watering containers that I made from empty cat litter buckets. They were white, and kept the soil temp down a bit. Additionally, you'll get more than you can handle if you put out the word that you want some. I found a design online, but would be glad to send you some pictures if you PM me. As mentioned above, twice a day watering is essential. I found one brand of buckets that was clear, so I could see how much my tomatoes drank each day (ALOT!). Also, with the litter buckets, I cut a hole in the lid so that just the plant was sticking out. That helps to lower evaporation loss. Just thoughts from a non-expert, but I had great tomatoes and bush beans from my containers last year.

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