Care of container plantings takes little total time, but it does require daily attention. The following are tips to keep your container garden thriving.
- Soil moisture needs to be checked every evening. When the weather is dry and windy, you may even need to check soil moisture morning and evening. To test the moisture level, rub a small amount of the surface soil from each pot between your thumb and finger. Ideally, you want to re-water each planter before the soil becomes bone dry. On the other hand, the soil should not be constantly soaking wet or the plants will drown. Therefore, it's necessary to keep track of the moisture level very conscientiously. To be sure that water reaches all of the soil in the container, fill the planter to the rim with water several times, allowing it to soak in completely. If no water comes out of the drainage holes, fill again. Repeat this process until water starts to drip from the bottom of the container.
- To keep the plantings looking full and to encourage abundant blooming, remove dead flower heads promptly. At the same time, check for any signs of insect or disease problems. Once every ten days to two weeks, water with a mild fertilizer solution.
- Set a narrow perforated PVC pipe in the center of a strawberry pot or large container before filling in around it with potting mix. When you need to water your plants, run the hose gently into the pipe, and the water will ooze out from top to bottom, inside to outside, giving every plant an even share.
- Use slow-release fertilizers to keep plants growing and blooming all season. Because peat-based mixes contain little or no natural nutrients, plant growth depends on a regular supply of fertilizer. Slow-release fertilizers keep working for several months to a year, depending on the formulation.
- Seal the bottoms of clay saucers with polyurethane to keep them watertight. Then they will be safe to use on floors and carpets. Or, instead of buying clay saucers, you can buy watertight plastic saucers made to look like clay. When one is sitting beneath a pot, it's hard to tell the difference.
- Put clay and plastic pots in the garage before cold winter weather arrives. This will help keep them from cracking and chipping when the weather turns bitterly cold.
- Wrap heavy urns and pots that are too bulky to carry indoors in plastic for winter protection. Do this on a dry autumn day, securing the plastic across the top, bottom, and sides of the pots to prevent moisture from getting inside. Moisture expands when it freezes. This causes terra-cotta, ceramic, and even synthetic stone and concrete containers to chip and break.
- Store pots under a tarp for protection in mild climates. This will save space in your garage or basement and keep the pots handy for when you need them in the spring.
- Look for self-watering planters if you aren't home enough to keep potted plants from drying out (or if you forget to water every day or two). Self-watering planters have a water reservoir in the bottom that's connected to the pot by a water-absorbing wick. When the soil begins to get dry, the wick pulls up more water from the reservoir.
Find a list of the best and most common materials for containers on the next page.Want more information on creating a garden? Try: