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Saturday, February 12, 2011

A Pot To Plant In....(Tootsie Tip #1 Planting a Container Garden)

I have decided to revisit a few of my Tootsie Tips...I thought that with spring coming, we might all benefit from a little refresher!


Okay kids!!!! Today we are going to plant a pot or two together! Lets get started...

When you plant a container garden for your patio do you fill your pot with dirt? Do you leave the plants lots of room? Water every few days? Well if you answered yes to one or all of these desperately need my help. The information I am about to relay to you is such that I got about 20 years ago while cutting classes in college. I was sitting home watching T.V. and hanging out, flipping channels, when a show caught my eye. It was the first season of Martha Stewart's television show. I believe it was called Martha Stewart Living or something like that. It is the only episode I ever watched of any Martha Stewart show, and it is on one of those things I can say I learned and use a lot in my gardening life. I am now happy to pass this little secret or two on to my friends.

Yes even back in my early twenties I was a very passionate plant fanatic. I was known to cut classes to go plant shopping…I LOVED skipping school for any reason, but well, you know…. Now.... Stop picturing me skipping school, and get back on topic here! *)When planting annuals there is one major thing you need to remember. They are called ANNUALS, because they die after a short period of time. Therefore they do not have a lot of time to get done what needs to be done. That's where you come in. You are the hands that will make it happen for these tiny short lived plants. They are already fast growing…we are just going to give them the ideal conditions to make them grow (and maybe even a touch quicker)


White Alyssum

The first thing you will need to choose is a pot. In this case I will use both a hanging basket, and a patio pot. My patio pot is 17 inches in diameter, and the hanging basket is 10 inches in diameter.


I keep any soil that is not sealed in a bag, in a garbage can with a lid that fits tightly.
This keeps any unwanted bugs from making a house out of my soil.


The scoop is a chicken feed scoop. It is larger than the average shovel, and makes life a lot easier.
In the case of the hanging basket, you will need to purchase a bag of potting soil. There are brands that boast that they are made specifically for this type of planting. I am not going to say that they are wrong, but I will say that I have never bothered with it. I just use regular potting soil.


Fill your pot about 4 inches from the top of the pot with your soil of choice.

I would not recommend you using dirt from your garden. Regular soil tends to become hardened after a couple of watering's, and may not offer enough nutrients in such a small quantity. Potting soil also offers ingredients that will hold the water you give your plant for a little longer than the run of the mill dirt your garden offers.
Once your pot has been filled to the 4 inch level, you need to choose your plants. I use several plants per pot. It may be tempting to use one or two and call it finished. This will work, and may be pretty, but it will not be as full or large as if you use several. In my hanging baskets or 2007, I used 7 wave petunias per pot. I could have used more, but these plants are very aggressive growers and did not require more.
In my 2008 pots I used 5 wave petunias, 5 trailing lobelia, and 5 alyssum plants. WOW that seems like a lot doesn't it? Well, here is the reason. Some of the fillers may not live, and some will not be as large as others.

When planting annuals, or any plant for that matter, you need to remember that a plant has leaves, stems, blooms, and roots. The plants will concentrate on establishing their root systems before they will begin to show any progress on top. Once they are root bound and "comfy" in their pots, they will begin to grow. After all they are full down below the soil, so they have no where to go but up! So stuff those plants into that pot, add a little soil if necessary to make sure that the roots are not being exposed to the air, and firm lightly to make sure there are no air pockets in the soil.
In the case of the pots I am using for this issue....I used 6 wave petunia, and 20 alyssum for the large 17 inch pot, and 8 pansy, and 12 alyssum for the 10 inch pot.
Once you have finished stuffing the pot, you should water. I suggest watering with a liquid plant food. This fertilizer will not only help your plant to overcome the planting shock quicker, it will give them a kick in the roots to encourage vigorous growth. Water well, and place in a nice shady location for the first day or two. High heat and full sun will end up making them wilt and will set them back a bit. For an annual, even a few days is critical growing time. Once the plant has bounced back from the planting, you can place in the chosen area or home in your garden. Water daily, and use your plant food weekly.


Fertilizer for plants is like chocolate for us. It goes straight to work. It makes things grow. In the plants case it makes the roots and the foliage and flowering more vigorous. In the case of me and the goes straight to my rump and makes it grow too! Ha ha… Did I just say that?

Now...lets get on to bigger pots.

If you are like me...I am protective of my pots and if there is a storm coming, I like to move them to a more sheltered location. If I fill my pots with nothing but soil, I would not be able to easily move them. Wet soil is HEAVY, and lets face it...none of us are iron men and women. (and if you are....kudos)


What I like to do is use large chunks of Styrofoam. I save all the packing from items that we purchased over the last several years. I have also been known to use a small garbage bag filled with empty pop cans, or an old pot inverted to fill the pot some before I add the soil. There are chunks of foam in my stash that have been used again and again for about 12 years! I have received much criticism about this for years now. People screaming that it is not ‘green’ for me to use the stryo…well what could be greener than me re-using it again for years and keeping it out of a landfill? Just sayin’, let’s get back to our pot…


I like to fill my pot at least 1/2 way with the "spacer" material, before I use my soil. Again use potting soil, and fill to at least 4 inches below the rim. You will want to poke the soil in to the filler a little so as to ensure that there are not any air pockets in your pot. I tend to poke around to make sure that all the little crevices are filled in and that the soil is not falling in anymore before I move to the next step.


Choose your plants. In my large patio pots I used 1 dracena spike (optional) 3 geraniums, 6 wave petunias and lobelia and alyssum to fill it in between the others. I tend to fill my baskets super full. Once you have added your plants, and are satisfied with the arrangement, top fill to leave about 2 inches from the rim. Water with your fertilizer solution, set aside (in the shade) to recover...and voila! You have a successful patio pot.


Watering your pots daily is a must. They are more prone to dry out than the gardens we plant. Pots are smaller, and not as deep. We have also just filled those shallow pots to the brim with plants. Water generously and choose one day of each week that you will use as your fertilizing day. I use Feeding Fridays, or Fertilizer Fridays. Something like that is easy to remember. I will also be making a post one day each week to remind you to feed your gardens both ground and potted.

I certainly hope this has helped take the mystery out of planting a container garden. If you should have any questions....absolutely leave them for me to answer...if I can. Coming up soon, is a post about window box plantings…stay tuned!

Until next time…happy gardening!

*)*)*) to those special three...(you know who you are- special hugs just for you!) *)

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(¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

original post date 5/23/08
also posted at G4S