Miniature Farm Garden

A year and half later, our miniature farm garden is doing well. This big tub had a large crack in the bottom so we didn’t have to punch drainage holes in it.

How to Plant a Miniature Garden in a Big Pot, Part II

Miniature Farm Garden

The Miniature Farm Garden om early 2012, freshly planted and decked out for the show. See more images in our new book, Gardening in Miniature. (Click to enlarge, use the back button to come back.)

Planting a miniature garden in a big pot is more than just filling up the pot with soil, shoving a couple of herb-starts in it, plunking down a house and sprinkling the accessories around.

The real joy behind miniature gardening is the fact that you can garden with real trees, shrubs and bedding plants. When gardening in oversized pots and containers, you have the space to bring more “garden” to your project, learn different techniques and watch the plants and trees grow in and weave themselves together. I go further into depth in my new book, Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World, about how to get more out of less by applying a few simple rules to your own plans and designs. So let us get get on to Part II with more tips, tricks and techniques on planting miniature gardens in large pots.

Before you Begin

– If it is a really big pot, make sure to have the pot in the right spot before you start building it. Put plastic or cardboard down to protect any surface to make the clean-up easier.

– Not all pots are perfect. Look for blemishes, scratches or kiln marks on the outer sides of the pot, and face the best side of the pot to the front, facing you, before you begin. (You don’t want to know how many times I’ve created a miniature garden, only to step back and see a big ding in the glaze on the side of the pot, front and center!)

– All outdoor pots or containers, including re-purposed containers, need a drainage hole. Period.

– Use a small piece of mesh screen or landscape cloth to cover the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot to keep the soil inside the pot from trickling out every time you water. Placing pottery shards over the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot is quite popular, but be sure to not cover the holes up completely, you still want the excess water to have a way out.

– If you are planting tubs, wheelbarrows, pails or similar, drill or punch drainage holes in the bottom. If you don’t the rain will fill it up and you’ll have a miniature flood to clean up.

Miniature Garden Tree, Fernspray Gold Hinoki Cypress

If you are hard-core, like me, big containers give you a place to graduate your growing repertoire of plants and trees. This is one of my most favorite trees for miniature gardening, the Fernspray Hinoki Cypress, it’s about 7 to 8 years old in this picture.

Water Control

– If you live in a condo/apartment balcony you may want to have a system to corral the excess water that will drain out of the bottom of the pot and onto the balconies below yours. Saucers are ideal and pots can be found with a matching one but it may take some diligence to find one – but it’s worth it. Otherwise your local garden center will have clear plastic ones of all different sizes that aren’t too noticeable.

– Water draining from the bottom of the pot will eventually stain any surface. If you have a wood deck or concrete surface – or any surface for that matter – prevent the staining by putting the pot up on ‘pot feet.’ Then tuck a small saucer underneath the pot to corral any excess water. The feet help keep the drainage holes from clogging too.

Miniature Garden Trees

The tree on the left is an Intermediate Sawara Cypress. It’s a big faster-growing than we usually prefer, but look how it grows into a tall bush. We can keep it trimmed from this point too. That other tree on the right, behind it, is a Sky Pencil Holly. Tiny Sedum cuttings in the tiny pot and tiny “ferns” are Brass Buttons. See our online store for more info.

Tips for Moving Large Pots

– (In case you missed this handy tip in the last post.) If you are going to move it, choose a pot with an edge, or lip on it so you can get a grip on it. Moving big pots without a lip is like moving a big mattress – there’s nothing to hold onto. It makes all the difference in the world if you can get a handle on it.

– We love using the Pot Lifter to help us get our larger gardens from show to show, and to shuffle around our container gardens when we need to. You’ll need a buddy. See more here  and it’s perfect for pots without a lip.

– Wear garden rubber-coated gloves. It not only protects your hands from accidental nicks and cuts, it improves your grip on the pot, allowing you to focus on the task at hand instead of worrying that you are going to drop it.

– Put your large miniature garden on wheels! Use small furniture dolly – available at your local hardware store for less than $10. You can roll it wherever you like. **Important: Use small pieces of rock, wood or something to brace or “chock” the wheels when you have it in place so it doesn’t roll by accident. If it’s a pretty hefty container full of soil and plants, you want to control where it wheels. You can fit a saucer underneath the dolly.

– If you do need to move it, remember to bend at the knees and get under the weight to lift it up.

Trust Your Gut

My nickname for my husband Steve is Hercules. When we first started to learn to move things together, he prompted me to lift a heavy and awkward display piece and, without thinking, I did. Big mistake. My back did not participate AND it was just before a major show too. Not fun. Trust your gut and test the weight first, if you know it’s too heavy for you, don’t even try it at all and ask for help. Thankfully, I find most men love to move heavy things for some reason.

If you are bringing your miniature gardens to shows and / or creating displays, always take into consideration during the planning stage, how you will move the displays and gardens in and out of your house or studio and into the show-building. It’s one thing to be able to create big, it’s another to move it.

Do you have any questions about planting in large containers? Do you have any tips you would like to share? Leave it in the comments below!

Like this? Then you’ll love our Mini Garden Gazette Newsletter published almost monthly. Join us, and thousands of other miniature gardeners, here.

Oh, and here’s Part 1 if you missed it.

Miniature Garden Book

Our Hot New Bestseller on Find it at wherever books are sold or from our online store here.