Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Container Gardening by Arlene

Arlene’s Container Gardening Tips

Container gardening can be a lot of fun and very rewarding. Here are some tips I’ve gathered through the years to be successful:

Choosing the right container


TIP - Choose a container that is at least 12” in diameter. Smaller containers dry out very quickly in hot weather. The container must also have drainage holes to allow for moisture to drain out if over-watering occurs or if they are out in rain.

There are many different containers to choose from to hang or place on the ground. There are wire baskets with a coco liner or lined with sphagnum moss; plastic, fiberglass, self-watering; glazed, terra cotta, metal and wooden containers.
TIP - When using clay or terra cotta, soak the container in a tub of water until the air bubbles subside before you pot them up, to avoid drying out the soil. Also, place a saucer of water underneath to keep them moist.
TIP – When using baskets lined with either a coco liner or sphagnum, put a plastic liner punched with holes, over-top of the coco or sphagnum liner and then plant your plants. The basket will not dry out so quickly.

Darker coloured containers attract the heat more than lighter coloured ones, so keep that in mind if you plan on spending weekends away. Use light coloured containers for the sunny spots.

Choosing the right soil

A peat based soil less mix dries out more quickly than a quality potting soil. Choose a quality potting soil specific for containers or hanging baskets that contain key nutrients. Consider using a product such as Soil Moist that contains water crystals that hold water and release it into the soil as it dries. Soil Moist is added to the soil before you plant. Add compost to enrich your soil.
TIP – Don’t use soil from the garden as it will compact, be heavy and may contain insect or disease.

Choosing the right plants

Choose the right plants for the conditions (sun or shade). If you get away on the weekends and have your hanging baskets or containers in hot dry sun, choose annuals such as Geraniums, Strawflower, Portulaca, Million bells, Osteospermum, Cosmos, Lantana. Scaevola, Marigolds, Heliotrope, Salvia, Celosia, Verbena, Gazania, Ice Plant, or Castor Bean, to name a few, that will tolerate a lot of hot and dry.

Keeping your plants healthy

Add compost to enrich the soil before you plant or use a slow release fertilizer that breaks down with heat and moisture.  Some slow release fertilizers last for up to four months.  If you haven’t improved the soil, you may also want to use a water soluble fertilizer or an organic fertilizer such as sea weed or fish emulsion to supplement until the slow release fertilizer starts breaking down.

Remove the spent flowers by removing the flower head right back to the stem to keep the plant from going to seed.

Checking for insects and disease
Check for insects and disease regularly and deal with the problem immediately before the plants gets stressed or destroyed.

Water your hanging baskets or containers slowly to insure the entire container is moist.  For hanging baskets, you may want to submerge the basket in a bucket of water until air bubbles subside. This way you know the basket is very well watered.
TIP – The feeder roots will gravitate to the outside of the container so make sure the soil at the edges of the container is well watered.
Water bulbs are available to fill and leave in your container when you are away.  I have also filled 2 litre plastic bottles, punched a few holes in them and turned them upside down in a large to container to drip water slowly into the soil when I am away for a few days.

The use of mulch in containers also helps keep in moisture and keep the soil cool.

TIP – if you are going to be away for a number of days and are not able to have someone come in to water while you are away, you might consider moving smaller baskets and containers inside or into a shady, sheltered area outside to keep them from drying out in the hot sun.

TIP – If you have planted perennials or shrubs in containers for the summer, make sure you remove them from the container and get them planted into the ground by the middle to the end of September to insure they settle in before winter.

These are some tips that I have used over the years to keep my hanging baskets and containers looking in top shape all summer long!  If you keep your plants healthy, they will be able to survive on their own through periods of both drought and a lot of rain!

Posted by Tammy Jensen at 1:24 PM