by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Picking the perfect pot: Container gardens can add a creative punch of color, elegance, and/or drama to your landscape. As with statuary and garden art, container gardens are the accent pieces in our gardens. The primary key to the success of container gardening is to choose a pot that has good drainage. Here are some other important tips for choosing a new container:
Style – First things first…pick a pot that appeals to you! What’s your style? Just as when you choose art and other decor for your home, consider your style and what suits you and your garden when selecting containers. Pots come in all sorts of styles from traditional terra cotta to sleek glazed pottery, painted ceramics, plastics, and even whimsical lightweight pottery.
Size – does matter! What you plan to plant in your container will determine the size pot you need. You want to give your new plants room to grow. At the minimum go 2 inches larger than the pot that currently houses them. For plants such as trees and shrubs that you want to keep in the container for a long time go even larger so they can grow in place for 2-3 years or longer. Also, keep in mind that large pots hold moisture in the soil longer and smaller containers dry out more quickly.
Shape – The shape of the container might be dictated by its surroundings. For example, you might want a square pot to fit into a corner or a low round bowl to sit on your outdoor dining table without hampering cross-table conversations. Tall pots can be used to add height in the middle of a low garden bed.
Shade – The color of the container can match other garden pottery, complement its surroundings, or stand out as a bold contrast against a landscape’s many shades of green. Match or contrast the color of the pot with the colors of its plants or choose a neutral color and let the plants be the stars of the composition.
Gardening in pots or containers is fun and easy. You can dedicate as much or as little time and space as you want. Container gardens require little work, are enjoyable creative outlets, and on a whim can be changed quickly. The only “must” requirement: regular water; but there are ways around demanding watering schedules. Here’s how:
Lightweight plastics, Styrofoam, and fiberglass containers are great for balconies or porches and require less frequent watering. Just avoid keeping them too wet in the spring and fall seasons.
Glazed pots are a bit more expensive initially, but last for decades; plastic and terracotta pots tend to crack and break after a season or two. Glazed containers are available in multitudes of colors and patterns. Plus, they are less likely to be tipped over in a mountain windstorm!
Fill with Watters ‘Potting Soil’. This premium soil is the perfect blend for retaining water at the root level while draining enough for deeper roots; both attributes are necessary for a hardy plant. Fill your pot ¾ full, mix in Watters ‘All Purpose Plant Food’, and then finish filling with more potting soil.
Tamp down to compress the potting soil. Add more soil and tamp down until your pot tamps to the ¾ full mark and cannot accept any more soil.
Plant Placement – Arrange plants in the container’s soil surface, keeping plants level. Firm the soil around each plant, adding soil as necessary. When the container is fully planted, very little surface soil should be showing. Place plants so the foliage of one plant is touching the foliage of the other plants. This prevents the soil from drying out too quickly, plus it creates a more finished look from the outset.
AquaBoost Crystals – For smaller pots, or simply to use less water for any container garden, add ‘AquaBoost Crystals’ to the soil used around your plants’ roots. These water-holding crystals store water at the root level keeping plants moist longer, extending bloom time, and creating more drought hardiness during summer.
No Soil at the Rim – Soil should be about 2-inches below the top of the rim, allowing the space necessary to properly water your new container garden.
Completely Soak – Thoroughly water your new creation until water is seeping from the bottom of the pot. There still will be dry spots in the soil so thoroughly water again 2-3 times to adjust the soil moisture and activate the plant food nutrients.
Place on a saucer to protect surfaces. An outdoor setting may not require this step, but a saucer has a secondary benefit. By watering your container until water seeps out the bottom and fills the saucer you have created a limited self-watering pot. As your plants need more water during the heat of the day this water can be wicked back to the plants’ roots.
Feed regularly with Watters ‘All Purpose Plant Food’. Container gardens use more food than comparable plants in garden soil. Feed every 4-6 weeks for best performance and color. Force more color from your flower and vegetable gardens by supplementing this food with Watters liquid ‘Flower Power 54’ at two week intervals; you’ll be rewarded with stunning flowers and increased harvest.
At Watters Garden Center, we have a huge selection of pottery from trendy new colors to the classic favorites. Lots of great new colors, styles, textures, and shapes to choose from, and all will last for years and years outdoors. Browse our container departments and you’ll find the perfect pot for your new container garden.
Now that you’ve chosen the best container and know how to plant it, you might enjoy this video put together by a friend at Armstrong Garden Center: How To Plant a Container Garden. Good stuff:)
Until next week, I’ll see you browsing the pottery at the garden center.