Thursday, August 17, 2017  

Secrets to a Successful Container Garden
an easy way to add splashes of color

Secrets to a Successful Container Garden

Now that summer is finally here, everyone is itching to be outside. With the move outdoors also comes the unending planting season. You may want to spruce up your landscape or patio with flowers, but what if you don’t have a lot of space to work with or a lot of time?

Outdoor container gardening is an easy way to add splashes of color to all your outdoor spaces—the deck, patio, porch or windowsill—and regardless of your gardening experience or level of expertise, it’s really as easy as 1-2-3. One, plan ahead; two, plant your containers; and three, maintain them.

Whether you’re a first-timer or veteran, here are some tips for getting the best looking, lush flower pots in the neighborhood.

1. Planning
Begin by thinking about the color schemes you’d like to enhance your patio or deck. How will the flowers on your deck accent your kitchen’s décor? Think about what you planted last year, what worked and what didn’t and what exciting new varieties are available. Look at books and magazines for ideas and how you’d like your own containers
to look.

Consider your light conditions and what plants work well together—shade foliage won’t grow well in conditions appropriate for, say, a Geranium. Toy with interesting textures and leaf colors in addition to bloom colors. A variety of foliage adds unique depth to your garden. Herbs and vegetables are becoming a popular trend. For instance, a corn plant as the main focal point is rather stunning. Snow peas growing up a post create curiosity. Purple basil, arugula, oregano and nasturtium are lovely flowering edible plants.

2. Plant Your Containers
First, remember that trying to grow anything in containers with dirt from outside is a recipe for disaster. It is imperative that you use quality potting soil if you want your plants to thrive. The expense can be a turn-off though, so it is possible for you make your own. For a simple mix, all you need is a bag of cheap potting soil with some finely ground bark mulch. Mix the two 50/50 and you’ll be all set. Other soil mix recipes include sand, perlite, vermiculate and lime.

No matter what you plant, the plant roots need air in order to take in water and nutrients. Pots with clogged drainage holes are often plant killers. Roots, potting soil or other debris can keep water from draining out of pots, which can lead to root drowning or even root rot. Make sure your pots have clear drain holes. By ensuring that your plants’ roots have proper ventilation they will be better able to absorb nutrients and grow.

Some materials used to assist drainage are rocks, broken terra cotta pieces and packing peanuts. Many times these don’t work because soil runs down into the crevices and blocks the drainage you so diligently tried to create. Also, once the pots are filled with rocks, soil, plants and water, they can get very heavy and hard to move.

One alternative is using plastic mesh in the bottom third of your pots. It can be installed in precut squares for either square or round containers. Plastic mesh is very flexible so there is no need to trim the squares into circles. Some companies even have this mesh available in large rolls that you can cut to your desired size to fit planters precisely or accommodate your odd shaped planters.

Your pots will be lighter (no rocks!) and you’ll use up to 1/3 less soil in each pot. And because it creates a pocket of air within the planter, it helps provide that critical oxygen your plants need to thrive. Optimal drainage leads to superior plant health and more blooms. For large containers, you can fill the very bottom with crushed annual packs (that your plants come in) or another lightweight material. Then use layers of plastic mesh on top of that to keep the soil in the top part of your planter.

Once your drainage system is in place, fill the pot with potting soil so the middle third of the pot is full, leaving four to five inches for plants. Next, take the plant plugs and set them in the pot. Start with the taller, wider center plant. Then place the next largest plugs around the perimeter, and balance them according to color and size with the smallest placed last. Rearrange until you are satisfied, fill with soil and water thoroughly.

3. Plant Maintenance
As your containers bloom and grow, give your plants a “haircut.” Pluck off dead blooms and trim leggy growth to keep your containers blooming well into the fall. Keep your plants watered and fertilize regularly.

When it’s time to put everything away for winter, dump your pots out. This soil is ideal to top off your perennials or add to your compost. When using plastic mesh fillers, you won’t have to pick out the rocks or other material from the bottom of the pot. Pull out the mesh layers and cut off any roots that may have grown into it. Roots that have grown into the material will dry out over the winter and come out easily the following spring. You can reuse the material year after year.

These quick and easy tips will have your patio, deck or porch full of color and beautiful blooms in no time flat.