Tips for starting, maintaining container plants

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Nearly any container can be used as long as it promotes good drainage. Containers made from porous materials like lay and wood lose moisture quickly but allow for air movement not the root zone.

Metal, plastic, and glazed containers are non-porous and hold water longer but restrict air movement, making drainage holes especially important.

Containers are portable, but if they are too heavy, add container dollies with wheels. Containers should be large enough so plants won’t dry out between waterings.

Smaller containers will need daily maintenance during summer.

Porous pots may look more natural but can deteriorate quickly if consistently exposed to moisture and freezing temperatures.

Bring these pots inside to prevent cracking during the winter. Non-porous containers, including glazed pottery, have a longer life span but are usually more expensive. They may be stored outdoors in the winter. Use non-porous containers, except glazed pottery, for growing early-season plants like lettuce or pansies. They can withstand the likelihood of frost or freezing during the spring.

The container size should accommodate the roots of the plant when fully grown. Plant vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplant, pepper, cucumbers, cabbage and beans in at least 5-gallon containers. Beets, carrots, lettuce and green onions need a 3-gallon pot.

Most herbs and radishes grow well in containers of 1 gallon or less. The general rule with flowers: the taller the flower, the more root mass it produces, thus requiring a larger container.

Water frequently; do not allow containers to dry completely or fine roots will die. Use water-holding polymers or gels, mixed with soil before planting, to extend time between watering.

New sep-watering pot systems may reduce watering maintenance.

The rapid growth of many container plants quickly depletes the fertilizer in soil. Mix controlled-release fertilizer granules into the soil mix at planting. Use diluted soluble fertilizers every watering or full strength on a weekly or every two-week basis

Annuals are good container plants. New versions of old favorites are available in most garden centers.

“Indoor” or tropical foliage plants are great for shady areas. Consider dracaena, schefflera or ficus.

Cacti and succulents are good bets, too, but don’t combine them with moisture-loving plants.

Perennials can be combined with annuals. Pair plants by their fertilizer and watering needs.

Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden will also do well in a container. Look for varieties that are labeled as ‘bush,’ ‘patio,’ ‘dwarf,’ or ‘compact.’

Herbs for containers include thyme, oregano, parsley, rosemary, basil, chives, cilantro and lavender.

(Source: Cooperative Extension)

Susan Woody has been a home and garden writer for more than 20 years and is a master gardener.

By |June 1st, 2017|

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