A growing revolution
Container gardening is by no means new - it's as old as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
One of the most popular trends in today's gardening market, container gardening is ideal for people who just don't have the space for a soil garden or can't get around like they used to. Almost anyone can have a small window box of herbs or a hanging basket of annuals. It's as easy as buying a pot, filling it with soil and planting your favorite flowers.In this section, you can learn all the steps of container gardening, from choosing the right pot to what plants will grow well in containers. On this page you'll find information on:
- Planters and pots
- Planting and Transplanting
- Growing Mixtures
- Taking Care of your Containers
- Hanging Baskets
- Potted Vegetables
- Bulbs in Pots
- Potted Herbs
- Perennial Container Gardening
- Container Gardening Recipes
You can learn how to prepare a delicious herb garden or how to keep your bulbs happy and healthy. If you're confused about when to take your houseplants outside, you can learn how to do it with ease.
If you're new to this, you can follow our container gardening recipes to see what arrangements will look best together, how to complement your outdoor decor and how to create a mood and theme with your containers. Different plants will grow at different times, so if you don't want to keep buying plants every year, you can just plant perennials. If you want to change your containers, annuals might be more your speed.
Don't forget to carefully maintain your containers with thorough watering, fertilization and weeding. If you're growing vegetables, it's especially important to check for any plant diseases or insects that could ruin your crop. All in all, container gardening is easier and more controlled than regular gardening, since you're working on a much smaller scale.
Planters and PotsPick the right container for your garden
Containers do more for plants than just providing a pretty setting for them to grow in. The right planter or pot can help your plant's growth cycle and lifespan. Choosing a container for your plants doesn't have to be a chore - remember, some of the most efficient containers for your garden can also be the most attractive. You don't have to sacrifice beauty for functionality, and you don't have to spend a bundle on your containers.Types of Containers
To get the most out of your container garden, your pot must fit the flowers you want to plant. You can use just about any container, but the best ones are made of terra cotta (breathable fired clay that allows oxygen to get to the roots of the plant). You can also use wooden barrels or wire baskets lined with moss. Plastic pots, planter boxes, ceramic pots and even everyday objects like cement blocks, boots or dishes also make great and attractive planters. You've just got to choose the planter that will best suit your style.Drainage
Because your plants will live in a closed container, you've got to make sure that the planter has proper drainage so that the roots won't rot. This can be achieved simply by drilling holes in the base of the planter. Terra cotta and clay materials will lose moisture more quickly, but metal, plastic and ceramic containers will lock water in. If you don't want to drill holes in your planter, you can get a pierced insert that will hold the soil and plant, allowing for drainage. Just make sure the insert doesn't sit in the excess water at the bottom of your container, and empty your planter every so often to get more oxygen circulating inside. Don't forget to set your pots on blocks or bricks to allow for free drainage.Container Size and Weight
If you'll be moving your containers around a lot, then you're going to want a planter that will be light enough to make transporting it easy. This goes for plants that will stay in the house during winter or will need to be moved during their growing season for whatever reason. Consider the weight of your planter when it has soil, plant and water in it. If it will be too heavy for you to lift, place it on a wheeled dolly that will allow you to pull or push it into place. Remember, taller plants will often require a heavy container to provide a stable base when the wind picks up.
Your container should be large enough to accommodate expected plant growth and watering. Your plants shouldn't dry out completely between watering times. This is especially important when you're growing vegetables - your plants won't grow properly or be as good if they're always wilting. Root-bound plants will also underperform. A good rule of thumb: the taller the flower, the more root space it will need.Durability
Although you can buy many attractive planters that are relatively inexpensive, you've got to consider what you'll be using your containers for. Porous pots, like terra cotta or clay, give a wonderfully natural look to your outdoor decor, but won't hold up to rough weather or freezing temperatures. This also goes for thin, brittle plastic pots, which are prone to cracking in cold temperatures and might break if they get knocked over. You'll need to bring these inside in winter. Other planters, like ceramic or metal, are more durable, and more expensive. However, you can leave them outdoors in the cold, reducing the amount of maintenance needed.
Wooden pots have a tendency to rot, so painting them with a clear, non-toxic varnish may prevent this problem. You can also use redwood and cedar, which are pretty rot-resistant, but you might pay a little more for these containers.
Planting and TransplantingSituating your new plants
If you know all the latest gardening trends and love poring over beautiful plants and flowers in a nursery, then you've probably got some ideas for your container garden. The great thing about container gardening is that you can have many of the same plants you would see in a soil garden on your roof terrace, balcony or front porch. Just make sure that your container is big enough to accommodate your plants' growth and you're set.
If you're looking for a riot of color, a cell pack of annuals will make your containers overflow. Before choosing your plants, be sure you know where the sunlight falls on your chosen space. Also check to see if your space's foundation will reflect heat, as that could potentially dry out your plants.
If your space has:
- Mostly shade - try planting impatiens, lobelia, or elephant ears, which all tolerate a shady area
- Partly sunny - coleus or alyssum will grow well in a partly sunny corner
- Full sun - pansies, snapdragons, zinnias or marigolds will glow brightly under the sun
Remember, if you find that your container isn't doing so well in one light setting, it's portable enough for you to move it to another light setting to see if it grows better there.
When planting a cell pack of annuals, remember that you can fit more plants into a garden container than you can in your garden. A good rule of thumb is to divide the space that annuals will need in the garden in half - for example, an annual that needs six inches will require only three in the container. Never pull the plants directly from the container -squeeze them gently to release them or push up on the base to protect the root ball. Keep the soil they will go into fairly moist.
Choose annuals that will grow well together to create an interesting and attractive color scheme. Also, mix plants of different heights and widths together so that your container garden will look varied and interesting. Follow the planting directions on your cell pack and make sure you label your plants once they're planted. To give your annuals a head start, break up the root-ball to help the roots establish a grip in their new home. Don't forget to give them a good drink when you're done.
When your annuals start to look past their prime, it's okay to pull them up and put in fresh plants. This way, you can change the look of your container garden from season to season. Make sure that you thoroughly weed the dead plants' area to remove any unwanted seedlings, and don't combine plants that need different light conditions to grow.
If you're transplanting plants that you've grown yourself, pick a cool, shady day to do the transplanting. Sun and rain can really stress out young seedlings that are used to a controlled environment inside your house. Make sure to water the seedlings after you're finished. If they're pot-bound (the roots are bunched up on the side of the pot and they maintain their shape when the plant is removed), gently tease them apart or in extreme cases, cut them before transplanting. This will ensure that they will grow properly in the soil. Cut excess flowers or leaves from the plant to compensate for the lack of root growth.
Growing MixturesFormula for growing success
Just like the human body needs proper minerals to grow healthy and strong, one of the most important elements of container gardening is the right soil mixture. Plants need minerals, fertilizer and food in order to grow tall, lush and beautiful, and soil provides these things for them. If you find that your plants aren't growing well and you've done everything to ensure their growth, it could be that you're having problems with your soil.
When you're container gardening, you might be tempted to simply use soil that you find in your outdoor gardens to situate your plants. However, outside soil isn't recommended for use in containers, because it's mostly clay-based. This means that the particles of clay are heavy and will press against each other, leaving no room for oxygen or proper root growth in a confined space. If you want to start a container garden, a commercial potting soil or soilless mix is a good start.Anatomy of a Potting Mixture
A good potting mixture is made up of both organic and mineral parts. Organic parts can include peat moss, tree bark, sawdust or shavings. Minerals can include builder's sand, perlite, pumice, vermiculite or granite sand. A combination of two or more of these can make an excellent soil for your container gardens. Perlite and vermiculite are derived from mica and retain water, which gives your soil a lighter, fluffier composition, which in turn aerates the soil and the roots of your plants.
The great thing about container gardening is that it gives you a chance to experiment with different soils in a controlled environment - this can help you decide what the best combination is for your plants, flower and vegetable gardens.Potting Mixture Recipes
Potting Mix for One-Gallon Planters
- 1 part peat moss
- 1 part vermiculite or perlite
- ¼ ounce of triple super phosphate
- ½ ounce of dolomite limestone
- 1 part fir bark or nuggets
- 1 part ground pine
- 1 part peat moss
- ¼ ounce of triple super phosphate
- ½ ounce of dolomite limestone
All-Purpose Container Mix
- 2 parts garden loam
- 1 part sand
- 1 part peat moss
- 1 tsp bonemeal
Note: if you want to make this more acidic, add acidic peat moss and substitute manure for bonemeal.
Taking Care of your ContainersPreserving your plants' homes
Container gardening is a great hobby for those who want to enhance their patios with extra blooms, but when it comes time for your fall garden clean-up, your containers will need some attention. Pots and planters can sometimes stay outdoors over the winter, but what happens when spring comes again and it's time to replant your containers? How do you repair a crack in a cement or ceramic planter? How do you look after a bronze urn? If you're confused, don't worry - the tips and tricks on this page will help you maintain your containers for years to come.
It's important for pots and planters to drain properly - this means the drainage holes should never be blocked. Purchasing a couple of pot feet or mounting your pot on blocks will allow water to seep out underneath the container without obstruction. This will serve your containers well in the winter, since any excess moisture trapped inside the container can freeze and cause the sides or base of the container to crack. Sometimes, placing Styrofoam peanuts in the base of the container will prevent moss from growing over the holes. If you have saucers under your pots, it's a good idea to remove them, as the frozen water will crack the saucer.
Prepare the soil for the winter by stirring it up, breaking up all clods and scraping any clumps off the side of the planters. If you have perennials or bulbs that will stay outside through the winter, they'll have a better chance of growing if the soil is loose and can contract with the temperature changes. Hard, packed dirt doesn't contract and oxygen can have trouble getting to the roots.
If you're going to store your containers for the winter, make sure to empty them of soil and wash them out with a weak bleach solution, about one part bleach to eight parts water. This will remove any mold or parasites that could give your new plants diseases. For bronze urns, waxing the inside and outside will protect them from the weather. Simply wash the outside of the urn with dish soap and water; rinse well to avoid soap stains. Use clear wax found in tins (not car wax) and a soft rag. Don't forget to buff up the urns for a beautiful shine when you're finished. This method also works for garden statuary and any other bronze pieces you have inside and outside the house.
If you find that your containers are chipped or cracked, you may be able to fix them. Plastic containers should be thrown away if they have a crack, but you may not want to do that with your expensive ceramic containers. You can try to fix the crack with a PVA adhesive (also known as white glue) which will hold it together. If the container is cracked in two or more places, fill it with rice or beans, which will hold it together until the glue dries. If the cracks are too serious to be repaired but you don't want to throw out the pot, take it to a professional ceramic repair specialist.
Hanging BasketsA garden in the sky
If you haven't got a balcony or a yard, you can still do some container gardening by using hanging baskets. These allow a gardener who doesn't have much green space to enjoy flowers, plants, fruit and vegetables in an easy-to-maintain container.
Your local garden centers will surely have an extensive selection of hanging baskets for you to bring home and enjoy right away. A hanging basket can consist of two types - an open-sided wire basket and closed basket, made from either wood, plastic or ceramic. A wire basket is normally made of widely-spaced steel wires, and a liner will be needed in order to keep the plant, soil and water in. Liners can include sphagnum moss or coconut fiber. Alternatively, a hanging basket can be planted so that the plants surround all sides of the basket, holding themselves in (because there's no room for the soil to fall out).
In a closed basket, there are sometimes built-in water reservoirs to make watering easier, especially if the plant is hung up overhead. If you are going to buy a closed basket, make sure, as with every container, that there are adequate drainage holes in the base of the pot or your plants won't grow as well.Making a Hanging Basket
One of the great things about having hanging baskets is that they are very easy to plant and care for. To make a hanging basket, you will need:
- A deep, widely-spaced open- or closed-sided basket. The deeper and wider the basket, the more plants you can grow.
- Some sort of soil mixture. Hanging baskets tend to grow better when a soilless mix is used, like moss mixed with vermiculite or other minerals.
- Three or four plugs, also known as small single plants.
- A hook.
Line the basket with a liner, or if it's a closed basket, fill it with the soil mixture two to three inches from the top of the basket. The soil should be moist, but not dripping wet. Remember, in container gardening, plants don't need as much room as they do when they're growing in a traditional soil garden. For example, if the plants you buy would normally need four inches in a soil garden, then you can plant them 2 inches apart in a container. Water the basket well after planting and hang it up. Be sure to check the light conditions for the plants you've chosen and move the basket to a brighter or shadier spot if the container gardening plants you selected don't seem to be doing well.Plants for Hanging Baskets
What plants look nice hanging out? When you're planting a hanging basket, you should consider what colors will look best against your house walls or in your indoor room. Brighter colors can really glow in sunlight and complement the summer growing season. Remember to choose plants based on the light conditions you've got in your growing area. Any plant that is good for container gardening can be used for a hanging basket, including annuals, vines, herbs, vegetables - even some tropical plants. Use your imagination when selecting plants - you can mix types of plants in your hanging basket as long as your keep their needs and requirements in mind.Watering Your Hanging Basket
You need to consistently feed and water your plants throughout the growing season. Hanging baskets tend to dry out very quickly, so daily or twice-daily watering may be necessary to keep your plants healthy and blooming all summer long. Feel the soil to determine if the hanging basket needs water. If the soil is dry one inch below the surface, it's time to water.
A watering wand attached to the hose is a helpful tool to water those difficult to reach baskets, but a watering can will also do the trick. Use a gentle stream of water (to prevent the soil from dislodging), and continue until the excess water runs out the drainage holes. If you've forgotten about your hanging basket for a few days and the soil is bone dry, you might still be able to revive it. Take your basket down and immerse it in water to re-soak the soil. Once the soil has been thoroughly soaked, hang it back up to allow the excess water to drain. As the weather gets hotter, make sure you keep a close watch on your hanging baskets - you might need to adjust your watering schedule to combat the hot afternoon sun.
Watering too frequently, however, will quickly flush the nutrients from the soil. To avoid this, you'll need to fertilize your hanging baskets regularly. Consistent feeding every two weeks throughout the gardening season with a liquid fertilizer or a time-release fertilizer will help your plants flourish.
Potted VegetablesA salad in a pot
One of the nicest things about the summer is the ability to grow and eat fresh vegetables. If you don't have a garden, you're not excluded - you can easily grow vegetables on your balcony, roof terrace, deck or even in your home using vegetable container gardening. Container - grown vegetables are often easier to grow, since soil, light and water conditions are carefully controlled. Eating vegetables not painted with pesticides will make you feel better too.Container-Grown Vegetables
Although your growing space is smaller, you can grow a number of delicious vegetables in containers rather easily - many veggies will grow in a confined space just as well as they would in an open garden. Suitable veggies to grow in containers include lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and radishes. You'll also find a wide range of dwarf or miniature varieties of vegetables at your local garden center that are ideal for container gardening.Choosing the Right Container
Containers for vegetable growing should be fairly big and allow for the potential root growth of the vegetable. For example, radishes have a shallow, spreading root system, so a container about six inches in diameter and eight inches deep will give them ample space to grow. Wooden tubs, half barrels and other large containers are ideal for growing cucumbers and squash. You can choose from wood, metal, plastic or clay containers, but make sure that they drain properly by drilling drainage holes if needed. Plant vegetables in your container as you would plant them in a regular vegetable garden by following the directions on the seed package. If you're planting cell packs of vegetables, break up the roots before planting them in the soil. Don't overcrowd the containers, or you won't see any healthy growth.The Growing Process
The soil for planting should be a soilless mixture, and you should fertilize your vegetables well. A good fertilizer is a nutrient mix that you make up yourself and pour over the vegetables. You can buy the mix at a garden center - just follow the directions on the package. Carefully check the light conditions in your growing area and plant vegetables that will do well accordingly. If you find that your veggies aren't growing or look a bit listless, try moving the plant to a sunnier or shadier area as applicable. Regular watering will be important, because pots don't hold water like a soil garden does. Make sure to weed the plants and check carefully for diseases or pests. At the end of the growing season, harvest your vegetables and enjoy the taste of summer!
Bulbs in PotsA springtime surprise
After a long, cold winter, people eagerly anticipate the first signs of new plants pushing their way up through the soil. While all the other plants in the garden are slow to awake, tulips, daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses are cheerfully blooming. Among the earliest plants to bloom, spring flowering bulbs often mark the start of the new gardening season. If you want to enhance your bulbs in the garden or if you have pesky squirrels that insist on stealing your bulbs, you don't have to miss out - planting bulbs in containers will brighten your doorstep, balcony or patio on a dreary day.Flowering Bulbs
Almost any bulb in your garden will do well in a container. In fact, many bulbs are grown in containers first before being moved to the garden. Bulbs can be categorized into two groups - spring flowering bulbs and summer flowering bulbs. Spring bulbs are planted in the fall and bloom in the spring, and include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, narcissi, amaryllis and irises. Summer bulbs are tender bulbs, which do not do well over winter in zones that experience frost. They like warm and humid growing conditions and will bloom during the hot summer months. Summer flowering bulbs include dahlias, begonias, cannas, caladium, oxalis and other tropical bulbs.Planting Bulbs in Containers
To make a container garden that will bloom in the early spring, you'll need:
- A 16- to 24-inch pot. The size of the pot will depend on the number of bulbs you want to plant.
- Fast-draining potting mix. You can use a soilless potting mix, but make sure that the organic and mineral material is well-balanced.
- Bulbs, up to 70 for a 24-inch pot. You can buy bulbs at any garden center or nursery, or you can order them online.
Fill the pot up to five inches from the rim with potting mix, which should be moist but not wet. Plant the bulbs shoulder-to-shoulder in a solid layer, then cover them with the remaining five inches of potting mix. Water them well. A good thing to keep in mind is that some bigger bulbs require deeper planting than smaller bulbs. Always consult the planting instructions on the package.
While the bulbs are growing, keep them in the shade until green shoots start to show, then move them into the full sun and watch your flowers grow. You don't need to limit your containers to one type of flower bulb - mix and match different varieties. Once your spring bulbs have finished flowering, you can replace them with some summer bulbs.Overwintering Bulbs in Pots
If you're overwintering your bulbs, keep them in a cool place like a garage or shed - some experts suggest refrigerating them before planting. Overwintering bulbs in containers outside is difficult in areas that experience extreme fluctuations in temperature. Bulbs that are watered with hot water or kept in a hot place during their germination time may not grow - remember to plant them in the fall.
Potted HerbsConvenient natural healing and spices
We all love the taste of fresh herbs in our food, like chives in whipped potatoes or rosemary over chicken. You can buy dried herbs, but they're just not the same. Container gardening allows you to grow your own herbs in a convenient spot like your patio or windowsill all year round.
Herbs also have the bonus of helping with some body afflictions, and some can even repel insects. For example, mint will soothe an upset stomach and lavender can help clear infected lungs. If you're into natural healing, growing your own herbs means that you've got your medicine cabinet in a pot - which is better than driving to the store for the latest decongestant!Container-Grown Herbs
The herbs that you choose to grow will require several different sizes of pots because the root systems are different with each herb. If you choose to grow an herb garden, it can be a fun activity to arrange these pots attractively on your balcony or patio. Some people even buy pots with the name of the herbs on them as a kitschy decorative touch.
Herbs that grow well in containers include: basil, sage, winter savory, chives, parsley, thyme and oregano. If you plan on bringing your herb garden indoors during the winter, place the planter in a sunny window. Herbs need to be regularly pruned to promote new growth. If you harvest your herbs regularly, you shouldn't need to do any extra pruning.Growing an Herb Garden
Herbs are relatively easy to grow; however, like all plants in containers, they need a well-drained potting mix and adequate space to grow well. Bigger, taller plants like rosemary and sage will need at least a 10-inch pot, while smaller herbs like cilantro can live happily in a 6-inch container. One of the best things you can do is to let your herbs grow together in a planter or a single pot. They create their own climate that will benefit their needs. Check the herbs frequently and make sure they're watered. Don't drown them, but don't let them dry out - it can be hard to revive a severely wilted herb. As with all container gardens, make sure there is adequate drainage in the pot and soil so your herbs won't rot in the containers.
Perennial Container GardeningBeautiful plants that keep coming back
If you love container gardening but are tired of buying plants every season to fill your pots, a perennial container garden might be a choice for you. Many perennials thrive in containers - in fact some of them (such as daylilies and hostas) can grow in the same container without any fresh soil for five or six years.Selecting Perennials for Containers
Perennials, like annuals, come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. It can be challenging to choose the perennials that will complement your home and space perfectly. A good rule of thumb is to select three plants: one that will flower, one that will provide attractive foliage and one that will provide either a contrasting flower or foliage to the first two. The flowering plant should be a long-flowering one, so that you have color all season. Remember, a container can be a focal point on a balcony or patio, so choosing bright colors will make the pot stand out.
Choose hardy perennials that will tolerate difficult conditions, as planters can be exposed to harsh winds in the winter or the hot sun in the summer. Some perennials that do extremely well in containers include: daylilies, hostas, potentilla, sedum, yarrow, goutweed, candytuft and various ornamental grasses.Planting a Perennial Container Garden
All containers look best when they're planted with the flowers and foliage close together, with hardly any space between the separate plants. When you're planting a perennial garden, it's a good idea to choose plants that will look their best at different times - this way, you'll always have color in your container. Aim to plant your container so that it looks attractive directly after planting, so that you get the most out of it through the season.
Other containers, like troughs or window boxes, look good when you can see the spaces between the plants. How you plant them is really up to you, but make sure that you use a good quality potting mix and a container with good drainage. Garden soil will lose its structure when used in a container and will become a solid lump, preventing the roots from penetrating the soil. Perennials can last for years with the right care, and although you'll pay a little more for them at first, you'll reap the benefits for many seasons.Overwintering Perennials in Pots
If your garden is in an area that endures cold winters, you'll need to take some time to make sure your perennial container gardening will overwinter effectively. Because the sides of the planters and pots are exposed to the elements, the potted perennials are more susceptible to winter damage. During a deep freeze, you might even suffer a cracked container.
The easiest solution is to move the container to a sheltered location, against a wall in a garage or garden shed. Perennials need to be exposed to a cold dormant period to bloom the next season, but providing shelter will prevent winter damage. Another option is to winterize the pot itself; that is, insulate it against any trapped moisture that might be inside the soil. When the moisture freezes, it will expand and crack the pot. For example, you could layer Styrofoam insulation at the bottom of the pot and around the inside of the container before you add soil. Your perennials can then be planted as usual. You could also buy some commercial container insulation from your local garden center. A third option involves burying your container directly in the soil, and you'll have to do this before the ground freezes. However, this option is often messy in the spring when it's time to remove the planters from the soil. Make sure there's enough empty space in the garden to accommodate the buried planters.
Container Gardening RecipesPut together a riot of color and beauty
So you've decided that you want to start a container garden, but you don't know what you want to plant in your containers. Or perhaps you have an idea of what to plant, but you're not sure how to arrange the pot so that the most attractive side of every flower shows. This is where container gardening recipes come in. These recipes are instructions on how to plant beautiful containers and hanging baskets that will complement your space and provide color and texture to the exterior of your home.
You can create a theme with your containers, have flowers for a festive occasion or simply try different hues and colors together to create an interesting effect. The best thing about container gardening is that it's versatile, and if you don't like a certain effect, you can always transplant the container to reflect more of what you want.
When you read a container gardening recipe, you will find instructions on which flowers to plant and how many you'll need to create a certain container. We've also provided images of how to plant the flowers for the most attractive look. Remember, you'll need certain tools besides the plants to create a container garden.Make sure you have:
- Containers of different sizes and types. You can use almost anything as long as it has good drainage - even objects like boots, wagons and barrels are good.
- A good potting mix.
- A method of watering, whether it's a watering can or a hose.
- A nutrient mix or fertilizer.
We've included several different options for container recipes. What you choose to do with your containers depends on your taste and budget, but here are some good recipes to get you started:Purple and Pink Container
This pot is an annual container. You can have it as a hanging basket or as a ground container. Feel free to use different colors of the plants listed for a different color scheme.
- 2 petunias, royal magenta
- 2 verbena, dark blue
- 2 dusty miller
Using verbena of different colors and varieties can create a beautiful bower in an otherwise dull spot. Depending on what colors you like, you can brighten or dramatize your space.
- 10 verbena, different colors of your choice, or a mixed variety.
Silver and green can create a cool effect on a hot-colored patio. If it lasts into the fall, it can create a wonderful contrast between the silver, green and bright autumn colors in your area.
- 4 dusty miller
- 1 Cyperus papyrus or umbrella plant
If you're looking for a vivid, festive look for your garden around the Fourth of July, you can try planting a container that will reflect the holiday. Not only will it pick up and complement your garden, but you may find that the hues will look even better under the bright summer sun.
- 2 verbena, blue variety
- 2 Impatiens, scarlet
- 1 dusty miller