1.) Get the foundation right
If your container garden includes any sort of crop, be mindful that most crops need no more than 12 inches of soil for roots to grow. Feel feel to fill the excess at the bottom with hay, leaves or compost. Interestingly enough….I just read that filling the bottom of the pot with shards, gravel or rocks is quite the outdated practice! That it actually slows drainage instead of improving it. Shocker. So if the container’s drainage holes are large, lay pieces of old window screen over them to prevent soil from spilling out without impeding drainage.
When I worked on the farm, I was taught to pop small plants out of their cell packs by slightly pinching the bottom of the plastic cell while gently holding the top of the plant. With your fingers, loosen the bottom roots so they are ready to grow. The roots should be dangling downward to encourage their downward spiral!
And remember that even moisture is easier to maintain over the long-term. So consider moistening the soil you use in a basin or wheelbarrow prior to filling pots and containers. You can even pour warm water right into the bag of potting mix if that’s easier. Allow water to absorb for about an hour.
When you are finished planting, water again with a slow and gentle mist. Fill pots to the top, letting the water sink in until you visibly see it flowing from the drainage holes at the bottom. Thereafter, check soil at the same time daily, and water when surface is dry to the touch. As soon as fruits set, apply an organic liquid fertilizer weekly. Leafy veggies and herbs require less fertilizer.
Tip: When looking for plants, seek out varieties that have the words “draws,” “compact,” “patio,” “determinate” (tomatoes), or “bush” in the name or description to ensure you’re buying the small ones!
2.) Mix herbs & vegetables with flowers
It’s never too late to make an addition, even if you’ve already done your pots this season. We also prefer potting our herbs in portable containers to extend the life of our herbs gardens. This allows us to overwinter them.
3.) Think outside the box
Troubleshooter: Thoroughly clean a container prior to planting. This helps to eliminate the risk of contaminating your new plants with a disease.
Tip: Water seeping from drainage holes of tubs, watering cans or any metal container can leave rust or water stains on concrete or wood. Put a tray under your unusual container, or move it to a surface that won’t pose a problem like brick, stone, or the ground.
4.) Envision the annual family photograph
So snapdragons go to the back of the pack and lobelia and alyssum draping over the front. Pansies, marigolds and petunias in the middle. You get the drift. The exception is the round pot. Sometimes it’s just dandy to stick a tall plant dead center (I’m thinking a vinca vine in particular) to draw the eye upward.
The ones that need to be in the back of the pack?
- gerber daisies
- marguerite daisies
- stock zinnias
5.) Thriller, filler, spiller rules still apply for that killer pot
- Thrillers can either be flowering or foliage plants or ornamental grasses.
- Thrillers are generally put either in the center or at the back of the container (It’s the family photo all over again).
- Place it in the center of the container if it will be viewed from all sides.
- Place it in the back of the container if it will be viewed from only one side.
- Examples…I’m thinking a miniature rose, wildflowers, bulbs, ornamental grasses, a hibiscus or a dahlia plant or a coleus, gerber daisy or gardenia to get your heart thumping!
- Fillers tend to be more rounded or mounded plants and make the container look full.
- Fillers are generally placed in front of, or around, the thriller variety.
- Fillers should be placed midway between the edge of the container and the thriller variety.
- If the thriller is in the center of the container, the fillers should surround the thriller variety.
- Examples….petunias, million bells, calibrachoa, superbells, impatiens, geraniums, marigolds, verbena, portulaca, begonias
- Spillers are trailing plants that hang over the edge of the planter.
- Spillers are placed close to the edge of the container.
- If the container is going to be viewed from all sides, spillers should be placed on all sides.
- If the container is going to be viewed from only one side, spillers should be placed in the front of the container.
- Examples…lobelia, allysum, bacopa, bidens, potato vine, English Ivy
6.) Balance color with your whites & greens then drape drape drape for drama!
No pot or planter is complete without some plants hanging lusciously over the side. Lobelia. Check. Alyssum. Check. Potato vine. Check. You’re getting the right idea. Dangling plants look lacy, attractive, feminine and whimsical.
English Ivy as shown in the window box just below trails so well and softens the container’s edges. And that foliage! Heart-shaped leaves have white margins that sweetly accent the rich, dark green leaf centers.
• “White Nancy” Lamium
7.) Touch before you buy- Use all 5 senses to explore your options!
Some pots will be smooth and svelte, others sharp and pointed, and how about rubbery and mounded? All are at arms reach. Just don’t mangle them when you touch ~ gentle is key! But consider the difference in touch in just succulents alone. Some are lush and smooth, others spiky and stiff, while some are just plain furry. Consider the ruffles of wave petunias or million bells and the true “faces” of miniature roses and violas.
• Sweet peas to uplift
• Lavender to put you to sleep
• Nasturtiums for a peppery scent
• Lily-of-the-valley for a spring smell
• Thyme or French tarragon to get that herb in the pot~
~And I hardly need to mention adding a gardenia or jasmine plant for exhilaration!