Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tips for Fall to Winter Containers

Using the right plant in the right place, and keeping track of water requirements, you can have great results with container gardening across all four seasons, saving you time and money.  Follow these tips below for long lasting container ideas you can plant now, that will have impact year round.   

1.) Right Plant - Right Place

Choose plants that look good year round, are low maintenance and require less and/or similar water requirements. Look for perennials, ornamental grasses, groundcovers and evergreens. Select plants that offer varied color foliage and texture. Evergreens and conifer plants that are dwarf varieties work great for the coldest of climates. 

A mix of cactus and succulents with trailing or upright Rosemary works for a desert climate. For oncoming snow climates, try a 1.5 to 3 foot evergreen conifer mixed with winter hardy perennial plants and groundcovers such as ivy, dwarf heavenly bamboo or black ribbon grass.  Or a combintation with white cabbage, ivy, Silverleaf Cinneraria, black violet pansies and moss.

2.) Containers and Soil

Containers for your plant selection should be 1/3 to a 1/2 larger than the rootball of your largest plant to allow enough space for soil and root growth for plants. 

First step, sprinkle 1/2 to 1 inch of gravel as a first layer in the bottom of the container -this has always worked for us; and ENSURE there are at least 3 drain holes to let water drain out the bottom.

Soil should match up with your plants requirements: use a moisture retaining soil if moisture loving plants; use a soil mixed with sand if you have cactus or succulent varieties for a desert climate; otherwise use general garden soil for most settings.

3.) Arranging Your Plants

Containers are most dramatic when you group plants in odd numbers using 3 to 5 plants of varying sizes. Working with plants with interesting color and texture creates the biggest statement. 

While arranging, think of creating a pyramid or triangle effect, top down with a taller plant at one side of container, a lower plant below it and a plant that trails over the container's edges as the third candidate.  

Add a pyramid wire trellis to a large square or round garden container and allow a diverse climate evergreen vine, such as jasmine, to grow into it with a few trailing plants down the edges of the container.

4.) Potting Techniques

When potting plants, don't be afraid to scratch at the rootballs to open up roots and allow them to expand in the container. Rootbound plants, particularly evergreens, won't mind being cut into and torn a bit to remove dead bound up roots. During potting, be sure the top soil level of plants meet together at the same level. Never bury a plant too deep or too high. You can pack soil under the plant while you are arranging them for level and placement.  

Be sure to pack the soil in well around and between your plants. And allow for and inch of space or more, between the top level of your plants and the top edge of the container, to shelter plants and provide room to hold water during watering. Once planted and even, optionally place a layer of light gravel, ornamental bark, moss or sphagnum moss to cover the soil and keep nutrients in.

5.) Fertilizing and Watering

Use a generous amount of Fish Fertilizer, Start-Up or Vitamin B-1 right after planting and water well. This is a key secret of most nursery growers. Once plants are established even the use of Miracle Grow will feed the soil which gets depleted over time since the plants are remaining in the same container for a long period.  Monitoring the watering of your containers is important; spend $12 and get a plant moisture meter which gives you an accurate reading. 

Otherwise, allow containers to dry for a day or two before watering after initial planting. Then, allow containers to dry fairly well before watering again, but at the time of watering, do deep watering: fill the containers with water until well saturated, and after the water settles, fill it again. Then wait a week before repeating this intense watering. Deep watering tends to work once a week, increasing to two to three times a week in very hot, summer conditions. Decreasing in winter or rain exposed conditions two a few times a month -just put your finger in the soil, if it feels moist, don't water at all. If dry, water.
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