BY NORMAN WINTER
Everyone has heard that old saying: You can lead a horse to the trough, and if he doesn’t drink, make it a planter.
But if you choose to jump on one of the hottest trends in the country, you can make your own jokes about some old caballo.
At the store, these containers go by names like stock tank, feed trough, water trough and my choice, the horse trough. They might not grace the landscapes of Highland Park in Dallas or River Oaks in Houston, Texas, but they are popping up at high-end shopping centers like The Landings in Columbus, Georgia, and specially designed communities like Old Town in North Columbus.
If you do an online search of trough gardening, you’ll find this trend blazing across the country. When I was younger, I had a fine Grumman canoe. I know they were heavy in the aviation and ship building industry, and if they are still operating, I would tell them: Crank out some dazzling troughs for all of us gardeners, word on the street is these are getting hard to find.
First, know there is a trough that will allow you to grow just about anything you want to grow. You could have an exotic water feature, a flower garden, or several for a deluxe raised bed vegetable garden. The 36-inch-tall containers are ideal for those that use wheelchairs and motorized assistance or have trouble bending over. In other words, these can become the vegetable or flower gardens for all abilities.
You’ll find a lot of instructions on how to set one up. Without disparaging any of their suggestions, I’ll just tell you how it is being done in my town, by my son James. The oldest troughs in Columbus are about 10 years old, and keeping their integrity beautifully. After all, these are galvanized steel.
These were originally attached to wooden piano-type dollies with wheels or casters. These deteriorated over time, and the containers are now moved by muscle if needed. Some of the new containers in other locations have wheels; others do not.
The containers are filled to one third the depth with aged or even composted pine bark, with potting soil comprising the remainder. The containers have drainage plug holes, resembling those you might see on an ice chest.
These containers have a dual purpose, serving as a barrier to prevent encroachment of a vehicle. You will see on the internet, however, they have become works of art by many gardeners in the home situation.
In Columbus, they are scheduled for a cool season planting from fall through April, and a warm season redesign from late April through early October. In a commercial setting, they are first planted with a controlled-release fertilizer and then watered as needed from a 250-gallon tank with dilute water-soluble fertilizer as the seasons progress.
Today at The Landings, situated in between a favorite diner and a frozen yogurt business is a playground for the client’s children. It is decorated with an iconic lime green picket fence. Here are the oldest troughs with plants like Truffula Pink Gomphrena, Rockin Blue Suede Shoes salvia, Luscious Royale Cosmo lantana and Supertunia Vista Fuchsia and Supertunia Vista Snowdrift falling over the edge. You see, while the customers think they are seeing flowers, they are really seeing a shopping center habitat, attracting bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and little green lizards.
If you are looking for a new adventure in gardening, you may just want to consider a trough. You may find out you have an award-winning green thumb.
Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.