Pam Erikson, of Erikson Daylily Gardens, offered tips for container gardening, noting that choosing the right location and soil will produce healthier plants. (Jim McGregor/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Pam Erikson, of Erikson Daylily Gardens, offered tips for container gardening, noting that choosing the right location and soil will produce healthier plants. (Jim McGregor/Special to Langley Advance Times)

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SENIORS WEEK: Downsizing the garden

Langley gardener shares some tips for making the most of limited space

By Jim McGregor/Special to Langley Advance Times

For the green thumb, one of the challenges that comes with downsizing is leaving the shrubs, the flower beds, and the vegetable gardens behind.

Living in an apartment or townhouse, however, doesn’t have to mean living without plants.

Pam Erikson says that is one of her more frequent questions from customers at Erikson’s Daylily Gardens in North Otter.

“Almost every day we have someone come in and tell us they have downsized but still want to garden. My first question is to ask if their deck or patio is in a sunny or shady location. Certain plants will do well in direct sunlight and others will do better in a shaded location.

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“Lilies do well in the sunlight and for the shade, hostas do well. Or, we are now selling a lot of dwarf hydrangeas, some are only one foot by two foot and some are larger, but they won’t get huge,” she notes.

Some gardeners come from large properties and love to fill their space, while others are wanting to scale back and use just annuals like petunias and impatiens to have a bit of colour.

A good idea is to sketch out a design, where the pots or containers will be placed, and take measurements, she recommends, so they know the limit of the size and number of plants they can place in an allotted space.

“You should have this information before heading to the garden centre,” Erikson says, also advising people to make sure gardens of any size are not going to break any existing strata rules and regulations.

Talk to the resident manager and let them know what’s planned, and get approval for the project, if required.

The choice of container is important, Erikson elaborates.

“Personally, I love the heavy-duty pots. They may be more expensive but if they are triple glazed they will never crack. If you are in a condo, on a balcony, you might not want something that heavy, so you can go with a fibreglass or plastic pot. The cheaper ceramic pots are susceptible to the cold winters and they will crack,” explains the Langley Advance Times Green Thumb columnist.

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Once you know what you want, Erikson says, using the right soil is paramount.

“Choosing the right potting mix is key, so roots don’t rot. To get the proper drainage, I recommend a 50 per cent fine bark, 25 per cent peat moss, and 25 per cent perlite.”

Erikson points out that people can purchase moisture meters, which will give a good indication of the soil conditions in a container.

“With the potting mix, make sure to use a good fertilizer. I use a 14-14-14. If you put it on in April, it will last the whole season.”

Hanging baskets are another great way to display trailing plants, and it leaves tabletops for plants that are best seen at or below eye level.

Small trees add tranquility and tropical plants appeal to an indoor setting.

Above all, choose plants that thrive in “your” specific garden conditions, look good, fit well in the space, and appeal to “you,” Erikson says.

People can search out types of plants and more gardening tips at Erikson’s Facebook page.

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