Pot Up These Tips

By: Julie Barnes

Regardless of garden size, containers full of lush plants fit in every garden. With stunning colorful flowers, foliage or edible fruit, containers can add a whole new dimension to a deck, patio, or entryway.

Almost any plant grown in the ground can be planted in a container without heavy digging or weeding. However, plants grown in pots require specific care making them far more reliant on you for their needs than plants grown in the ground.

Containers made up of clay, plastic, wood, ceramic, concrete or metal offer endless possibilities to choose from. Just make sure the container has drainage holes so plants do not become waterlogged causing their roots to rot. For containers lacking drainage holes, it is best to grow the plants in clay or plastic pots to slip inside them.

Plants should be chosen carefully. Begin with healthy plants purchased from a garden center that has taken special care of them. Annual plants, which last one growing season, offer the best choices as new varieties are introduced each year. They are reasonably priced, easy to care for, and have a long blooming time.

A soil mix such as a soil less planting mix is a better choice to use rather than garden soil. Garden soil drains poorly and can contain insects, disease organisms or weed seeds. When a mix is used, it should be soaked with water prior to planting.

Watering properly is the secret to success with container gardening. Once planting is complete, make sure the container is wetted thoroughly. A deep drink will give the plants a good start and will also compact the soil to remove air pockets. Throughout the season, the planters must be watered consistently so the soil is kept evenly moist. During hot sunny weather, this can mean watering your plants as much as twice per day. If plants are allowed to wilt too often, they can become stressed making them susceptible to disease problems. Always water until it drains out of the bottom of the pot. Any water left in drain trays should then be emptied.

Fertilizing is essential because frequent watering of containers quickly washes out soil nutrients. Adding time release pellets such as osmocote when planting will slowly provide nutrients every time you water. Additional nutrients can also be added by watering with a water soluble fertilizer every week or two throughout the growing season.

Many gardeners automatically choose one plant type such as geraniums, impatiens, or petunias to fill a container. Now there are many new, beautiful, and unusual varieties of plants to use. Container gardening can be a way to express yourself creatively by putting together arrangements of plants in pots. However, plants that you choose to combine should always have similar water, fertilizer, or light requirements. For an immediate effect in a container, pack plants closely together with taller plants in the center and cascading ones along the edge. Attention to their needs will determine just how healthy and attractive your container plants will repay you.