Niagara Gazette

July 29, 2012

TINY GARDENS: Take a class to make your own container garden or follow these simple steps

Take a class to make your own container garden or follow these simple steps

By Michele DeLuca,
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Gardening’s not so hard. Really. 

Water and fertilizer. That’s all you have to do, said garden expert Bob Brackikowski, greenhouse and garden coordinator at Opportunities Unlimited in Wheatfield, a nonprofit that provides programs for those with developmental disabilities. 

“You can grow a five-foot tree in a little container this size if you give it enough fertilizer and water he explained, holding his hands in a circle the size of a kitchen plate. “You control the growth of the plant through fertilizer.”

Brackikowski, who is holding a series of container garden courses at the greenhouse — which are open to the public and help raise funds for programming — offered a few other gardening tips to those whose plants are struggling through the recent drought. 

Among the tips:

• Water plants twice a day, fertilize once a week, to keep plants actively growing. 

• Cross pollinate flowering vegetable plants, especially tomato plants, by “wanding” their flowers with a small paintbrush or by shaking them gently. “Every morning you wand those flowers and you be guaranteed double the amount of tomatoes,” he said.

• Also, don’t be afraid to mix it up. “It’s nice to mix flowers with tropical plants, to give your garden an extra summer flair,” he said. 

The tips work, at least for Brackikowski, who said that this summer “My porch looks like the hanging gardens of Babylon. My plants are as lush as can be.” 

Clearly, successful gardening seems to make gardeners happy, and the same seems true for the many Opportunity Unlimited’s clients, called “consumers” who help out in the greenhouse.

“I like working in the greenhouse. It makes me feel wonderful inside,” said Bobby Golding, 30, from Niagara Falls, a consumer who is also active in Gliding Star skating club and who is planning a rap dance for Opportunity Unlimited’s winter talent show. 

Golding helped Brackikowski create a sample garden for Niagara Gazette readers.

The easy steps are as follows.  All supplies are available at any garden center and will be available at each class:

1. Get some potting soil and place in a shallow bowl inside a wicker basket. (See photos above.)

2. One at a time, add several small tropical plants.  Brackikowski used an umbrella plant, a prayer plant, an arrowhead, a dracenea, a spiderwort, a jade and a eugenia. 

 3. Add several small river stones for dimension and finish off with a few handfulls of colored aquarium stones. Scatter some moss around the base of the plants. 

4. Add a few plastic or real flowers for color. Brackikowski use a couple stems of plastic flowers as they are easier to keep. “Just to give it some color,” he said.

When the container garden was complete, Brackikowski and Golding wore big smiles. “Look at what we just did!” Brackikowski said proudly. (See top photo for finished product.)

For more information about the classes, which are open to the public, see the box above or call 504-2617, ext. 244.

Contact features editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.