Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Container Gardening for the New Gardener

Have you ever wished you could bring a luxurious blooming azalea into your living room, or enjoy the fragrance of a blooming Meyer lemon when the temperature outside is still below freezing? You can turn these wishes into daily enjoyment if the plants are grown in handsome containers that can be moved wherever you like.

Whether you choose to bring a plant indoors or simply give it a prominent place on the patio or deck, container gardening allows you to move a plant when you want to, regardless of the season or transplanting conditions. And because you can create the proper soil condition (see directions below) and protect a plant from extreme temperatures, you can grow it wherever you like.

CAREFUL WATERING AND FEEDING ARE ESSENTIAL - Plants in containers require more attention to watering and soil condition than plants in the ground. You should water a container plant whenever the top inch or so of soil feels dry (in hot weather, some containers may require watering twice a day). Be sure to water enough so that the water begins to run out of the drainage holes. And if you're planning to be away from home for a few days, tightly group your container plants in a sheltered area; the plants will protect each other from the beat, cutting down moisture loss.

Unless the water in your area has a very low mineral content, salts will build up in containers, occasionally burning leaves or even killing some plants, To prevent this from happening, periodically flush out the soil by allowing water to trickle slowly into the container until it is saturated; or fill the pot several times in succession, allowing it to drain thoroughly. If leaf edges still show signs of burning (the edges turn brown and become brittle), submerge the pot in a tub filled with water.

The frequent watering which is necessary to maintain container plants, unfortunately flushes away any added fertilizer. The best way to keep a plant fertilized is to feed it every week using one-fourth the recommended strength.

TRANSPLANTING TECHNIQUES - Because feeder roots of container plants tend to mass next to the container wall, most plants should be transplanted to slightly larger pots from time to time or they will become pot bound and stop growing. Choose a new container that allows for two or three inches of new soil around the root ball. Guard against putting your plant into a much larger container-the unused soil may become soggy and sour and kill the plant before it has time to send out enough root growth. A day before transplanting, water the plant well. Then, remove the plant from its container, lightly scrape the root ball to stimulate the feeder roots, and set it in the larger pot on a bed of new soil mix. Then gradually add soil until the pot is filled, tamping the surface gently to avoid air pockets.

WHICH POTTING MIX? - A good planting mix is probably the most important element in container gardening. If you want to make up your own potting mix, use the ingredients listed for one of the three different mixes in the chart below. The basic mix is good for growing most plants; the exceptions are acid-loving plants which require the acid mix. The lightweight mix is best used for house plants or for container plants that require frequent moving.

Guard against substituting a raw wood product for one of the ingredients because it will quickly use up any fertilizer you add, leaving the plant without the proper nourishment.

The amount of ingredients listed for a small quantity of basic mix will fill about 18 pots, 12 inches in diameter. The larger quantity of basic mix will give you a cubic yard. Whether you make the small or large quantity, the basic mix will require additional frequent feedings of nitrogen, since it will not retain fertilizer very well (use a quarter-strength fertilizer weekly).

If you prefer to use your own formula for making a soil mix, make sure it doesn't include dense clay. Clay soil retains water, often drowning container plants.

Before putting plants in containers, make sure the mix is damp but not wet (if you're using new clay pots, soak them before planting so they will not rob moisture from the soil mix). Cover the container drain hole with small pieces of broken clay pots. Then check the consistency of the mix-it must be the same throughout the container to allow capillary action to draw water down to the roots, Fill the pot with soil mix to within 1/2 inch of the top. Water slowly to give the mix a chance to settle, adding more if needed.

BASIC MIX (For a Large Quantity)
(Suitable for all but ericaceous plants such azalea, heather, rhododendron.)
  • 2/3 yard nitrogen stabilized bark, redwood sawdust, or otherorganic matter
  • 1/3 yard sandy loam or uniform fine sand
  • 6 pounds 0-10-10 or equivalent dry
  • fertilizer
  • 10 pounds dolomite limestone
BASIC MIX (For a Small Quantity)
  • 16 gallons nitrogen stabilized bark, redwood sawdust, or other organic matter
  • 8 gallons sandy loam or uniform fine sand
  • 1-1/3 cups 0-10-10 or equivalent dry fertilizer
  • 1-3/4 cups dolomite limestone
(Ideal for indoor planters or outside container plants in sheltered areas. This mix may not provide sufficient support for taller plants in windy situations.)
  • 2 parts basic mix (above)
  • 1 part perlite
(For azalea, heather, rhododendron, etc.)
  • 4 or 5 parts coarse-textured peat moss
  • 1 part composted oak leaf mold
Prepare soil mix by putting ingredients into large pile, tossing them into a second pile to mix, and then tossing again if the mix is not blended the first time.

Scatter fertilizer and limestone over the blended organic matter and loam or sand. If you want a lightweight mix, use this stage to spread perlite over basic ingredients. Toss again once or twice to blend in fertilizer (and perlite if you are using it). If you are only making a small quantity of soil mix, use your hands as mixing tools.

If you're starting a new garden or trying to learn some new gardening tricks, editor Tim Lundie invites you to visit NewGardener.com ( http://www.newgardener.com ) for helpful tips and gardening inspiration.
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Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Tim_Lundie

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