May 31, 2011

Making Potted Plants Happy

A lot of novice gardeners are attracted to growing plants in pots. I suppose it seems easier than ripping up the lawn and amending the soil - and in a way, it is. But growing plants in containers has it's own set of difficulties. To make your container garden successful, keep in mind these important guidelines:

* It's better to grow plants in containers that are too big than too small. When a plant's root system can't spread out, the plant will eventually become sickly. For a good idea what size container to use for a given plant, ask an experienced gardener at a local nursery, or do a Google search.

* Whatever container you use should have plenty of drainage holes. An amazing number of store bought pots have no drainage holes. Most of the rest have too few. This is easy to remedy if you have a drill. It's pretty tough to have too many drainage holes, so feel free to go to town on the bottom of your plant containers.

* Good quality potting soil is a must. Personally, I wouldn't buy an off-brand because the soil may not be light enough or full of enough nutrients.

* Soil will plug up drainage holes. That's why most experienced gardeners either put a 1/2 to 1 in. layer of pebbles on the bottom of their plant pots or they use the rounded pieces of a broken terra cotta pot to place directly over the drainage holes. (Try looking for terra cotta pots in thrift stores; break them by throwing them down on concrete. Be sure to protect your eyes, though!)


* Dark colored containers get hotter. This may lead to sickly plants, depending upon how heat loving the plant is and how much sun the plant is exposed to. It certainly means plants in dark containers will require even more watering.

* Potted plants require more water than those planted directly in the earth. Over-watering makes for sickly plants, though, too, so use this guideline: Stick your finger in the soil. If it's dry 1 in. down, it's time to water.

* Potted plants require more fertilizer than those planted directly in decent gardening earth.

If you keep these things in mind, your plants should stay healthy, so long as they get adequate light exposure.

What if you've already planted some things in pots and they aren't thriving? My online writer friend and Proverbs 31 Reader Liberty Speidel recently mentioned that her potted tomatoes were looking sickly and the soil they were planted in was soggy. If you find yourself in such a situation, I recommend removing the plants and re-potting. In Liberty's case, her drainage is inadequate and she should drill some more holes in her containers, then use a layer of pebbled or terra cotta pieces before filling the pot with good potting soil.

Have you experienced problems with your potted plants? Tell me about it by commenting below; maybe I can help!


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