The Dos and Don’ts of Container Gardening

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By:  Chelsea Lipford Wolf

When it comes to planting flowers and plants in containers (instead of in the ground) there are a few common mistakes that you should avoid to give your plants the best chance of survival.

Don’t use the wrong soil. Look for soil that’s labeled as a potting mix or potting soil. These will have special nutrients that will help regulate water to protect the plants from overwatering and under-watering. This is a property that you won’t find in regular garden soil varieties.

Do drill a hole in the bottom. If your planter doesn’t come with a removable plug, use a 1/4” or a smaller bit to drill a hole in the bottom of your planter before planting. Without a place for the water to drain, it’s easy to overwater and drown your plants’ roots without even realizing!

Don’t mix shade-loving plants with those that require 6+ hours of sun. Plant growers make it easy to identify how much sunlight any given plant needs to thrive. In general, a tag with yellow needs all-day sunlight. An orange tag lets you know partial sunlight will do. Combining the two types of plants into one container will mean one plant thrives while the other withers away.

Do fertilize your container plants. It’s like a vitamin boost for your plants. Sure they may do okay without, but we all need a little boost every now and then! There are many different ways to apply a fertilizer. Some can be added to your watering can while others are meant to be sprinkled on the soil and then watered-in. Either way, get the fertilizer ready 30 days after planting in fresh soil.

Don’t forget to water. Since air can influence the soil in your containers from all sides, water evaporates much more easily. So container gardens will require more frequent watering than plants in the ground. A good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch or so of soil is dry. This may mean watering on a daily basis in the summer, especially if temperatures reach over 85˚.

Do deadhead old flowers. Pinching or cutting off spent blooms signals to the plant to grow more buds which means more color in your yard for a longer time! You can use pruning shears to trim below the flower head but just above the first leaf.

Follow these easy steps and you’ll have a beautiful container garden all season long!

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