Would you like to step outside your door this summer and snip fresh herbs to enhance your culinary efforts? Growing your own herbs in containers is an easy, convenient and very economical way to have fresh herbs on hand when needed. Herbs will grow in almost any kind of container that has good drainage. Use a high quality potting soil.
Grow what you eat or what you think is attractive. Most herbs need full sun. ( Mint and chives can do well in partial sun). When selecting and planting herbs, be sure to pot herbs that require similar care in the same pot. Parsley, marjoram, chives and mint thrive with a constant level of moisture. Herbs such as rosemary, basil, oregano and thyme prefer to dry out between watering. In larger pots, consider including a colorful annual for beauty and interest. Again select the flowering annual based on water and light needs similar to the herds in the pot. Bon appetite!
July 25Caring for Your Containers
Your plants in containers need basically the same care as other plants : good water source, fertilizer and deadheading. Watering and fertilizing when done simultaneously is easy and deadheading is done as needed. However, have you noticed even with all those tips some of your hanging containers get to looking “wimpy” sometimes?
Undercutting trailers that form heavy carpets of flowers snaps them back into shape, and it’s very easy. Those that especially need it are Bacopa, Calibrachoa, Lobelia and Petunia. Of course there are more.
Lift the mass of flowers to see how tangled the stems have become. That can block sun and water from reaching the lower branches or the soil. This can be a slow death for your plants.
The remedy? Grab your small pruners and begin snipping or undercutting. The goal is to thin out the mass. You can snip dead stems first, if you prefer, but it doesn’t matter as much as thinning. Pull out the stems as you snip them. Check the top of the carpet of flowers periodically to make sure you’re not creating a hole in the flower carpet. When you can see through the mat a little, you’re done.
Stand back and admire your work. Your plant will love you for it!
May 20How to Make a Hypertufa
Click on this link to see step-by-step how to make a hypertufa (an artificial stone pot).
May 2Container Gardening
Factors In Choosing a Container
Drainage holes are critical to the ultimate health of the plant. Most commercial containers have adequate drainage. If you have chosen one that does not, just drill several holes in it. If you want to keep the container intact you can still use it, just double pot. Place several stones or other solid objects in the bottom of the container. Place your planted container in it on the stones. Be sure to check that residual water in the base never rises above the blocks.
The plants need room to grow. If you know the growth rate of the plant(s) you can choose the size of the container based on how fast the plant(s) grow. Giving at least one inch of space around the root ball will work for most annuals and perennials. Trees, shrubs and large perennials will need more room for their larger root system.
Understanding how large your plant(s) will be at maturity lets you choose a container that will be in proportion to your plant(s). Planting small low growing plants in a large urn would be out of proportion.
Consider where the container will be placed so that it will be in scale with the surroundings. Will it be on a walkway, patio, front entrance or stairway?
Choose your container to suit the location aesthetically. An informal clay pot may not be suitable for a large formal front entrance.
Types of Containers
Manufacturers today are filling the container gardening craze with an endless variety of styles. It is a good idea to consider the material the container is made of when choosing one. There are advantages and disadvantages to all. Understanding the individual characteristics of the container will help determine what type best suits your needs and the needs of the plant(s). Some of the best containers were never intended for that purpose. Keep an open mind when choosing a container.
Clay is fragile, porous and heavy if large. It is good for stability in windy sites, but the large ones can be hard to move. Its porosity lets the plants roots breathe, but it also absorbs moisture necessitating more frequent watering. It is attractive but the better quality ones can be expensive.
Plastic is lightweight, non-porous, durable and less expensive. It needs less watering but the roots of the plants will not be able to breathe. It can tip easily in windy sites but will not break easily. Moving the container around will be easier. Manufacturers are making better quality, more attractive plastic containers to choose from.
Wood is porous if untreated. It is naturally insulating, keeping the mix and therefore the plant(s) roots from overheating in the hot sun. Choose redwood or cedar, as these woods are rot resistant.
Metal is very durable and attractive. It can heat up quickly in very hot weather requiring more frequent watering. It can also be heavy to move and expensive.
Choosing Plant Material
The environmental conditions the plant(s) will be exposed to must be considered when choosing your plant(s). Will the plants be in the sun, shade or some combination of the two? Will they be indoors or outdoors, sheltered or in a windy location? The ideal growing conditions can often be found on the plant identifying tag. If not, ask the garden retailer for that information.
What maintenance requirements do the plant(s) have? How much water and fertilizer will the plant(s) need in order to thrive? Most containers will need watering every day or every other day. This will leach out the fertilizer faster so frequent fertilizing is usually necessary. Most flowering plants will need deadheading to encourage bloom and look tidy. You will need to watch for any insect or disease problems that may occur.
The plant(s) characteristics also need to be considered. A large upright plant should not be placed in a shallow container. Do you want fragrant plant(s) for containers near an entrance or seating area? Would you like a container of herbs within easy reach for cooking? Does the color and texture look pleasing in the chosen container? The same factors you would use when choosing material for a garden bed should be considered when container gardening.
Good quality potting mixes are readily available commercially. These mixes should be lightweight and sterile. They are generally composted of peat, composted bark, perlite and/or vermiculite. Some have added polymers for water retention and may contain slow release fertilizers. There are even specialty mixes available for plants such as cactus and African violet.
Putting It All Together
Once you have assembled all your materials the planting can begin. For mixed containers make sure the plans chosen have similar cultural requirements. For example, do not plant a cactus in the same pot with petunias because they have different watering requirements. The combination of shapes, textures and colors should be pleasing. Consider the overall view of the container when placing the plants. If you will be viewing the container from all sides place the tallest plants in the center and the shorter plants around the edges.
A single plant container is easy to do. Try making a statement. One specimen plant in the proper container can be stunning. If you have several small containers try grouping them together to give a mass effect. This will also make caring for them easier.
ABOVE ALL, JUST GET STARTED AND HAVE FUN!!! HAPPY CONTAINER GARDENING!!!
May 1Contain Yourself-Part 1
1. Choose a sturdy container such as Terra-cotta, metal, concrete, glazed, wood or faux materials. Prices vary with size.
2. Carefully select your plants. Here’s how at the nursery. Place one hand over the soil in the pot, carefully placing the plant’s stem between your fingers. Gently press sides of the pot as you tip it. The plant will be loosened from the container.
If you find a ‘plug’ in a 4″ pot, avoid it. Why? You’re paying more for a larger pot with a recently transplanted plant. It needs more growing time at the nursery.
If you find roots growing in a circle, it’s probably ‘root bound’. Pass it by. If you can’t resist the plant, loosen the roots gently when you get home. However, be aware the plant’s growth may be slowed.
3. Choose your potting mix. Soilless potting is fine because it’s free of soil borne diseases. Some current mixes contain fertilizer and water absorbing crystal. Good potting mixes will crumble in your hand when squeezed. Mixes with too much clay clump together. Read the labels.