Week 14 of my Florida Master Gardener Program continued with the tropical-fruit theme. But we also spent plenty of time discussing container gardening. (Next week, No. 15, we have our final lecture and final lab exams — ugh! — so this is the last segment I’ll write on my journey to becoming a master gardener.)

The morning belonged, once again, to John Pipoly, Ph.D. and an urban horticulture extension agent for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Broward County Extension. He discussed container gardening — popular in Florida among those who live in space-challenged condominiums, townhomes and villas.

Window boxes are a great, inexpensive way for apartment and condo dwellers to add color to their environment. / Photos courtesy of John Pipoly

Out with the “olde”

Thanks to advances in materials, containers today are far superior to those of “olde,” Dr. Pipoly stressed.

Terra-cotta or glazed clay pots can be fragile, expensive, tough to clean. They also must be sterilized with chlorine and dried between plantings. By contrast, grow bags are “the new rage, made of varied recycled cloth or plastics,” Dr. Pipoly explained.

Fortunately, if you’re the creative type and have some unused apparel — old shows, for example — lying around, they can become your grow container, he noted. But there are limits to reusing items, he said, adding that an old tire does not a good grow container make.

A toilet lives again — as a grow container.

Wanna do “grunge” gardening?

Do you really want to make an impression? Adopt what Dr. Pipoly calls the nouveau ordures look (“new-wave trash,” in English). Warning: Your condominium association or landlord might not appreciate this approach! An old toilet, a bathtub, a wheelbarrow — even the trunk of an old Volkswagen Beetle (remember, these were rear-engine cars) — can serve as a home for new plants.

His manual, titled FL-Friendly Container Gardening, is available for free download at www.broward.org/Parks/Extension/UrbanHorticulture/Documents/FloridaFriendlyContainerGardening.pdf.

Dr. Pipoly’s manual provides a wealth of ways to create, say, a roof garden or a water garden; as well as excellent advice on how to select the right plant for the right place (keep wetland plants separate from dune plants).

And here’s the best part: Almost every Florida plant will grow almost anywhere you plant it, provided that soil conditions, water and sunlight amounts, and other prerequisites for its survival are met.

Well, that’s it for me. This has been a great and enlightening experience for the past 3-1/2 months. Gotta run: I have my final exams to study for!

5 reasons to choose container gardening

(courtesy of John Pipoly’s manual Florida-Friendly Container Gardening):
• Limited-space small yards, townhouse and apartment living;
• Desire to grow organically and to control contaminants in soil;
• Makes plants easier to transport; change positions with decoration or season;
• Control of media such as acid loving plants and different soil composites;
• Helps control some diseases and insects.