This is a fun one for me because my aim here is to make everyone a gardener one way or another. A great way to begin is with potted plants. Anyone can have a successful potted garden; it only requires a few simple rules and a lot of imagination.
To begin with, a pot can be any number of things not necessarily a pot. What, you ask?? Anything your wild imagination might conjure up. Most important is that you have good drainage and you have that as long as your pot/planter has holes in the bottom. Do not plant in a container that you cannot drill a hole into the bottom of. You will have very short-term success in this type of planter because of the counter productive mold and fungus that grows in pots with no drainage. If you have seen the green algae that grow on compacted soil, you know what I am talking about.
Find some interesting locations to place your garden containers; you can use window boxes, hanging baskets, railing planters or something funky you bought at a yard sale that is both a work of art and a planter. There are all sorts of great ideas in magazines and on line and you can make your small or large space architecturally interesting by “thinking outside of the box”, or inside for that matter, after all who is to say a planter has to be round. Now I am NOT saying that I am a fan of those who turn an old tire inside out and paint it (although they are being Green) then put a garden inside, because I am not a fan…however, if your neighbors and HOA are cool with it, more power to you (…as always, be careful what you plant food in, some chemicals from your planters will leach into the plants).
Pots/containers are a lot of fun because you can really go crazy with your plant designs. You can use all sorts of great textures and colors, perennials and annuals or a combination. You can change the pots each season with annual plants to be sure you have a constant show of color all year or choose evergreen and deciduous perennials to be sure something is active in your pot at different times of the year. An easy plan is to plant your tallest plant in the center with smaller plants along the sides and something (Ivy, String of Pearls, Creeping Jenny) hanging over in quadrants. I also encourage you to go crazy filling your pots in an abstract fashion with all sorts of colors and textures and see what happens. The more you practice, the better you get.
Of course, the same sun rules apply to containers as they do bed plantings. If you have filtered light, you are looking for part sun plants. Full sun plants may survive, but they won’t thrive and they may not flower. If you have shade or only early morning sun, you need plants for part shade/shade. Do not waste your $$ buying plants that aren’t for your light situation, you are setting yourself up for failure. As always, please do a little homework before you shop. Search for plants that are specifically for Central Texas (except for annuals), Native and adapted plants (from or for here) will do better overall. That being said, a pot is a great place for all of you Azalea lovers or you fellow Yankee’s or Californian’s who are constantly contacting me because you insisted on planting something you grew up with that won’t grow here and now you are confused as to why it’s doing poorly 😉 Yes, you know who you are. I am not at all a fan of using these plants, because they are not for our Eco system, but if you must, these containers are a great place to house your non indigenous plants with oddball soil requirements because you can completely control your soil by adding acid in the form of specific soils, fertilizer, Peat Moss, what have you.
Now, on the topic of soil, I say keep it simple and buy a really good quality potting soil. “Lady Bug” products from the Natural Gardener are a great choice and many nurseries now carry it, but wherever you happen to be buying your plants should have a good quality potting soil, this is not a good place to be cheap. The better your soil, the better your plants will do. Now, I suggest just as with your beds, that you fertilize regularly with an organic fertilizer such as liquid seaweed throughout the growing season. You can even find them at the big box stores now. Don’t use chemical fertilizers, they are only short-term fixes, organic fertilizers also add food for your soil not just the plants. I change my soil out of my pots at least every other season. Even with fertilizing, your plants are limited to nutrients when you only have a limited supply of soil, throw the dirt out in your lawn or garden and start over. When transplanting or re-planting over sized plants, it is a great time to add fresh soil. You don’t need to remove all of the old soil from the roots, but you do want to add fresh soil all around the plant. Another option to fertilizing is to add organic compost on top of your soil which will leach into the soil when watered.
Finally, be sure to leave a saucer under your potted plants to allow the plant to completely absorb the water you provided. This is not to say you should leave a plant sitting in water, if the plant hasn’t used the water in about an hour, drain the saucer. (this keeps you from growing mosquitoes too) As for watering, water slowly and often. Watering your pots too quickly only rushes water in through the top and out of the bottom. I suggest you water slowly with a water can all over the surface of the pot, then after a few moments to absorb, continue watering until water comes out of the bottom in to your saucer. Watering too quickly can also force all of the oxygen out of your pot. If you water and air bubbles come out of the top…you are going too fast. Depending on the light, you may need to water as often as every other day, or as seldom as once every several days. All plants including those in pots should dry out before watering, unless it is a plant that prefers moist soils (and this is definitely one that belongs in a pot). Using soils with water retaining properties like Pearlite will help reduce the need to water as frequently, but this Texas heat and wind means that your pots will require more frequent watering than plants in the ground will.
As for all my posts and suggestions, don’t over think it. Have fun with this project, grow some herbs for the kitchen, tomatoes, a butterfly garden, some cutting flowers, roses, HAVE FUN FOR GOODNESS SAKE!! Happy Gardening!!
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