- ► 2013 (37)
- ▼ May (6)
A continuous supply of nutrients and fertilizer is an absolute for lush container bouquets and productive edibles, I learned the hard way as a novice gardener.
My containers filled with petunias, salvia, lettuces and tomatoes looked awful, especially when compared to those I planted in the ground later. I was starving the container plants, because I didn’t replace nutrients that were leached out of the potting mix every time I watered.
Now I use this three-step fertilizer program, and my container gardens flourish.
A. Incorporate timed or slow-release fertilizer into potting mix when filling containers. (If the potting mix contains fertilizer, skip this step.) Fertilizer pellets are coated with a polymer that let them dissolve at varied rates; the thicker the coating, the long it takes for the fertilizer in pellets to be released into the potting mix. Most brands feed plants for at least 60 days, and some supply a steady stream of nutrients for up to 120 days. Check the label on any product you buy for this information.
Slow-release food is also available in organic form. Fish meal pellets are formulated similarly to synthetic fertilizers. Cotton seed meal, feather meal and alfalfa pellets are other slow-release organic choices. All feed plants for about 60 days. The alfalfa also contains a hormone, triacontanol, which promotes plant growth.
B. Apply water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks to supplement the slow-release fertilizer. Water-soluble ones deliver nutrients directly to plant roots and are easy to apply. Just dissolve them in water and pour the liquid into the container for a nutritional boost. Follow package directions for dilution rates and the amount of fertilizer to use on each container.
Organic choices such as fish meal emulsion and liquid kelp work well, too. In fact, some plants like ferns and lettuce respond better to organic products than to synthetic fertilizers.
C. If plants need a quick pick-me-up due to stress or heavy production of flowers or fruit, feed plant leaves directly. Deadhead old blooms, cut back damaged foliage and then spray water-soluble fertilizer on leaf tops and undersides. The spray delivers nutrients directly to where photosynthesis takes place. Results are dramatic—you’ll see growth or renewal almost overnight.
Use any spray bottle or garden sprayer and follow dilution rates given on the fertilizer package. A word of caution about foliar feeding. Don’t do it when temperatures are above 90ºF or when the sun is beating of plants directly. The fertilizer will burn leaves. The best time to foliar feed is in the morning or early evening.
For the last ten days, spring has played tag with winter here, and it’s snowed four times, between 70-degree days. Yet, garden centers are brimming with bedding plants, and the calendar says I should be planting. Hopefully, next week I can load up the cart at the nursery and get into the garden. Meanwhile, I’m evaluating the plants available and drawing a planting map.
I have critter problems. Deer, rabbits, chipmunks and wild turkeys roam free, as I’m out in the country. They do damage to everything green. The trick is finding plants they avoid. I like flowers that I don’t have to deadhead, too. A confession: I’m really a lazy gardener!
Below is my list of perennials and annuals that solve my problems—ones that I hope to be planting in a week or two.
Critter-Proof Plants List
Most munchers usually avoid plants with thorny or fuzzy foliage and those with strong aromas like lavender. To save your most valued flowers, situate them in the center of beds closest to the house or against the house. Why? Deer and rabbits nibble on the outside edges of plantings furthest away from buildings.
Rabbits avoid calendulas, chrysanthemums, columbines, four o’clocks, foxglove, gladiolas, hollyhocks, impatiens, iris, larkspur, morning glories, nicotiana, snapdragons, sweet peas and verbena.
Deer steer clear of ageratum, begonias, chrysanthemums, columbines, coreopsis, cosmos, foxglove, iris, lavender, monarda, purple coneflower, rudbeckia, salvia, Shasta daisies, verbena, vinca, yarrow, zinnias.
Surround your favorite blooms with ones deer and rabbits hate to protect them. Photo courtesy of the National Garden Bureau.
No or Low Maintenance Plants
Begonia, ageratum, lobelia, coleus and alyssum need no deadheading. Neither do Flower Carpet and Knock-Out roses.
"Pow Wow" echinacea or coneflower is a tough, reliable bloomer in almost every climate. Photo courtesty of Ball Seed Co.
Plants That Grow in Any Climate
Cleome, impatiens, petunias, marigolds and zinnias are annuals that perform well everywhere. Perennials that are guaranteed to bloom all over the country include ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum, coneflowers, coreopsis, rudbeckia and yarrow.
Two of my favorite flowers also grow everywhere and are tough. ‘Silver Tidal Wave’ petunia is one of the first in the Tidal Waves series. Its lavender-white flowers deadhead themselves, they need no pinching to grow lushly and the plants spread or more. Stems grow a couple of inches each day, creating three-foot-tall hedges ablaze with blooms.
My favorite perennial is ‘Mardi Gras’ helenium, a plant-and-forget perennial covered with orange flowers from July until frost. Hummingbirds, butterflies and yellow finch love this punch of powerful color.
I’m on my way to my favorite garden center to buy. Tell me what you are planting this spring.
Did you get a container garden or potted plants for Mother’s Day? I did. The hydrangea my son gave me needs repotting.
It’s way too big for the tiny 6-inch pot and not hardy enough to survive in the ground in my Zone 4b climate. But, it will be a gorgeous anchor for a large container, under-planted with trailing purple verbena.
Enhance the entry to your home and welcome visitors with a collection of containers.
Garden centers are full of annuals and tropicals this time of year, perfect for creating stunning containers. However, little things can doom them, but attention to details will guarantee perfection. From a red-leafed banana paired with chartreuse helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ in a tub to hanging baskets full of ‘Snow Princess’ alyssum and red begonias, all container plants benefit from the tips below.
Grouping containers filled with similar colors adds impact to your display. Bring in the banana container before the first freeze and put it in a sunny window for Winter.
Smart Container Garden Tips
1. Clean old containers thoroughly before using them for a second season. Add bleach to the wash water and use a scrub bush to get into cracks and crannies. A clean pot won’t transmit diseases to new plants.
2. Lighten the load by filling the bottom quarter of huge pots with recycled foam peanuts that come in shipping cartons. Then fill with potting mix. The peanuts create big air pockets and increase drainage, both things that encourage strong root development.
3. Mulch container surfaces to prevent soil compaction or root damage. Heavy rains and high-pressure hose blasts can dislodge potting mix and damage roots or pound the surface creating a hard crust through which water has a difficult time penetrating. Sphagnum moss, aquarium gravel, pebbles and shredded cedar bark are all attractive barriers that thwart these problems. Cedar bark has an added advantage. It contains a resin, which gives it a pleasant aroma that repels many insects. So does cocoa bean mulch.
4. Pinch annuals when you plant to force branching. Impatiens and begonias especially benefit from an early pinch. Plants grow bushier and produce more flowers of better quality. Pinch again about six weeks later, after the first heavy flush of blooms is spent for another spectacular show.
5. Deadhead old flowers to promote new flower formation and to prevent seeds from forming which stops the bloom cycle. Geraniums (Pelargonium), dahlias, nicotiana, verbena and osteospermum, particularly, need deadheading.
6. Be a neat housekeeper and remove plant debris from containers. If left, decaying leaves and blooms often foster diseases and invite insects.
7. Keep trailing and climbing plants in check by occasionally trimming them. Otherwise ramblers like dichondra, ivy, helichrysum petiolare and even petunias will climb over and smother their neighbors.
It seems like we were together just a few weeks ago! Which we were due to the rescheduling of our normal gathering.
We are back on track, however and I hope to see as many of you as we can. We have several quilts needing to be completed and we NEED YOUR HELP!
Stop by Julie Love's House from 9 AM to 3 PM. Bring your machine if you have one and let's have another great day of quilting!
See you all Saturday morning!
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- Comforting Quilters is a Non-Profit Organization that was organized to create and provide quilts to anyone need a bit of comfort. These quilts are created and delivered to Hospice patients, seriously ill patients, those who have suffered a loss or anyone who comes to our attention.