You can have soil that's poor and difficult to drain.
You can have moles that tear up your yard and voles that eat your plants.
You can have a shady yard with a spot of sun or the reverse — sun with a splash of shade.
Yet you can still successfully garden if you plant in a box or any container large enough to support what you grow.
For years, gardeners have planted vegetables, annuals, perennials and even small trees and shrubs in half barrels, wooden boxes and large pots. Tomatoes and peppers will even grow in straw bales.
Nowadays, weed-free container gardening is a cinch because companies like Earth Box offer kits that you tote home, fill with potting soil and plants and then sit back to enjoy the view or reap the harvest.
You can see how containers like Earth Box and its water reservoir, fertilizer band and mulch cover do all the work for you during the 16th Outdoor Show for home and garden Friday through Sunday at McDonald Garden Center.
Earth Boxes are foolproof for any gardening ability. Beginners will particularly like them because everything but potting soil and plants comes in the kit. Instructions tell you how many plants to use and how to place them for optimal results, or you can create your own design.
All it takes is about 10 minutes of your time to get the Earth Box system going. The box also comes with casters so you can move it to maximize sun exposure as needed. Potting mix in the Earth Box can be used for up to five seasons.
Planted in succession, an Earth Box will easily give you three seasons of edibles. In early spring, plant lettuce, radishes and onions for fresh salad makings. In May, replace those with tomato, squash and pepper plants. When their season is done, remove the plants, add new fertilizer and begin your fall veggies such as salad greens, spinach and broccoli. Anything from strawberries to okra can be grown in the box, according to the company.
In addition to the Earth Box display and demonstration, the Outdoor Show at McDonald Garden Center features exhibits and seminars on pruning, Always-in-Bloom containers, mole and vole tips and lawn-care advice. Show hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. all three days; parking and admission is free. The garden center is located at 1139 W. Pembroke Ave., Hampton. For more details, visit www.mcdonaldgardencenter.com or call 722-7463.
Several readers recently asked for recommendations on plants that screen or add privacy from unwanted views and buffer noise coming into their yards.
Forget Leyland cypresses because they grow too large for the typical urban yard, and they have shallow, weak roots that send them toppling during wind-driven storms.
Red-tip photinia, even any new and improved versions, still have problems, according to tree and shrub expert Bill Kidd at McDonald Garden Center in Hampton.
Chindo viburnum tops my list of privacy plants. I planted a couple at my former property across the street several years ago and they have thrived through all sorts of weather. The stately shrub grows rapidly, reaching 10 to 15 feet tall. Strong, upright branches form a nice pyramidal shape. Fragrant white flowers appear when the plant is about 7 years old, followed by bright red fruit in large clusters that attract songbirds. The leaves are leathery, lustrous, waxy and dark green in color. Give it full sun to part shade. Gardening books say the plants tolerates all soil types except wet, but my former plants thrive in a low, moist area. Drainage is the key to their survival in wet conditions.
Other favored evergreens plants for screening and noise control include American holly, camellias, wax myrtle, fragrant holly osmanthus, leatherleaf viburnum, Savannah Holly, eastern red cedar and Emerald Green Thuja. Know what soil and light conditions you offer before choosing a plant so it's happy and you are pleased with the results over the long haul.
Ask the experts
Join me and Colonial Williamsburg gardeners Wesley Greene and Susan Dippre noon-1 p.m. March 10 at www.dailypress.com
for a live online chat about spring vegetable/herbs gardens and flowering bulbs.
Things to doWalk and talk. 10 a.m.-noon Saturday.
Dave Ruble from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality teaches about our environmental footprint during a program at New Quarter Park, adjacent to the Queens Lake neighborhood off the Colonial Parkway in upper York County. Free. 890-5840.
Rose pruning. 2-4 p.m. Sunday.
Members of the Virginia Peninsula Rose Society show you how to properly prune roses in the rose garden at Huntington Park, Newport News. Free; bring pruners and gloves. 988-8746.
Herbs as companion plants. 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Nicole Schermerhorn from A Thyme to Plant at Lavender Fields Herb Farm in Glen Allen gives a program during a meeting of the Colonial Triangle Unit of The Herb Society of America at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church fellowship hall, 7479 Richmond Road in the Norge area of James City County. Free, open to public. 566-4038.
Maintain your Victory Garden. 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Teresa Cummings, a gardener at Ken Mathews Garden Center in York County, discusses organic weed and pest control during the Winter Lecture Series sponsored by Mathews master gardeners at Kingston Parish Hall, Mathews. Free, bring nonperishable food for the Hands Across Mathews Food Pantry. 804-725-7196.
Walk in the wild. 7 p.m. March 11.
Retired veterinarian Bill Leaning features images of the birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other cute critters that populate his 17-acre garden in Earlysville during a meeting of the Hampton Roads Bird Club at Sandy Bottom Park's nature center. Free, open to public.
Daffodil Hill. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
More than 51,000 new flowering spring bulbs, including a special daffodil display, greet visitors this month at Norfolk Botanical Garden, 6700 Azalea Garden Road, Norfolk. Narrated tram rides, free with garden admission, take you through the blooms. 441-5830.
Garden Sympoisum. April 11-12.
"Timeless Lessons from Historic Gardens" is the theme of Colonial Williamsburg's 64th annual gardening event. Author and lecturer Ken Druse and Old House Gardens founder Scott Kunst lead the lineup of experts; executive chef Rhys H. Lewis prepares dishes from the spring garden; and gardens are open for special tours. Daily fees available. www.history.org
Get more Hampton Roads gardening and home tips from Kathy Van Mullekom at twitter.com/diggindirt and at Facebook.com/Kathy.vanmullekom. E-mail Kathy at email@example.com
or call her at 247-4781; gardening and home news is also online at www.dailypress.com