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Now that gardens have been plowed under for the year, it's time to start gardening in a different direction. Container gardening can keep your green thumb glowing until spring planting begins anew.

"Gardening in any scale satisfies a basic human desire to make a connection with our natural environment," said Linda Geinosky, owner of Garden Gallery in Hixson. "It makes us feel good to cultivate and tend a garden, and being able to tend a garden in a container means that it's accessible to everyone, even for those who don't have a yard or have physical limitations that make gardening on a larger scale impossible."

Here are five things to know about indoor container gardening.

1 Living plants are incredibly effective at purifying the air in our homes. Building materials, detergents, hydrocarbons from furniture and carpet protectants, smoke and allergens all contribute to indoor air pollution. Houseplants can remove up to 87 percent of indoor pollutants. Some of the best plants to use for air purification are the spider plant, ficus and many varieties of dracaena.

2 The amount of light a plant requires depends entirely upon the variety of the plant. In general, most plants prefer the light from a south- or westward-facing window in the winter to allow for maximum light exposure. Whenever possible, fluorescent lighting should be used to promote plant growth.

3 When plants receive less than 12 hours of light per day, their rate of growth is reduced. They will need less water and fertilizer in the winter than would be required during the longer days of summer. Most plants perform better when the soil is allowed to dry to the touch between watering.

4 Fertilizer should be reduced to half strength for most foliage and tropical plants, and most succulents benefit from a period without fertilizer from November through late February to early March.

5 Although the rate of foliage growth may be reduced, some houseplants put on quite a show during the winter months. Rex begonias, many varieties of succulents and aloes are winter bloomers, and those who keep an indoor garden of these easy-care plants may be rewarded with seldom-seen blooms that can perk up even the dreariest winter day.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6285

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