It is still a bit too early to plant many vegetable crops, but this weekend is a good time to start your own decorative or edible container garden. Plus, this project can easily be arranged in a day and for last minute Mother's Day shoppers, a plant container would be a gift any mother or grandmother could enjoy all summer long.
Start with the Container
Containers come in all shapes and sizes. You’ll find rustic wood whiskey barrels, glazed pots, terra cotta, even fiberglass and metal. The best way to choose your container is to find one that will fit the personality of your home and apartment and fit the space where you’d like it to rest.
Preparing the Container
Once you have selected your container, it’s time to choose the medium for your plants. First, place gravel or even broken terra cotta pieces in the bottom of your container to encourage water drainage. Then choose between a light mix (ideal for hanging baskets, weight sensitive window boxes, or small containers) or a heavier potting mix for bigger containers.
Now comes the fun part, picking the plants. Dracena spikes, trailing vinca, and other assorted annuals make a perfect start. Other classics include petunias, marigolds, geraniums or snapdragons. For the adventurous, edible landscapes or mixing in tropicals can make a unique planter. Use your imagination! For newcomers, a great place to start is to seek out an expert at a local garden center. Plant specialists can streamline visions and preferences or make suggestion for plants that will give dynamic heights, textures and colors. For the tentative gardener, many nurseries can often take an idea or color scheme and put it all together for a professional yet personalized container.
Before heading home with new plants or a container garden, be sure to stock up on the right plant-care accessories. Fertilizer is simple and should be applied once a month. Most quality garden centers have both organic and non-organic fertilizer options and knowledgeable staff who can suggest the perfect products for specific plant selections.
With flowers, once a bloom has matured and wilts, be sure to “dead head” (cut or pinch off the old flower). Dead heading helps the plant direct valuable resources into producing new blooms and helps the plant's overall health. If flowers are not 'dead headed,' the plant will continue to invest valuable energy into the old bloom and the limit the plant's ability to thrive.
Any container or hanging baskets also needs consistent watering. The ideal time to water plants is in the morning or afternoon. Watering a plant at night not only increases its susceptibility to fungus and rot, but the moisture will also attract insects that may damage the plant. If it has been a particularly hot day and plants need multiple waterings or there is not time to water in the morning or afternoon, it is ok to water the plant at evening. For night watering, apply the water to the soil of the plant rather than the leaves, that will help reduce the risk of fungus damage.
Try to water plants daily. Plants in container gardens have a confined root construction so they can’t seek out alternate water sources by sending out more root structure. This makes a container more dependent on daily waterings for optimum health. If gravel or other drainage strategies have been placed at the bottom of the planter, don’t worry about overwatering the plant, the excess water will simple drain away.
Good luck, and happy Mother's Day to all!
Information for this article was contributed by Wilson Farm, 10 Pleasant St., Lexington.