Don’t be afraid to give your herbs a haircut or prune woody stems and long uneven arms. Pruning herbs promotes growth, will make your plants more attractive and you will get better yields. If you just let the plant grow, it can become lanky, woody and just look untidy. Don’t be afraid to cut back or prune … start slowly, go bit by bit until you like the look and you are satisfied … and you will be.
Whatever job you are going to be doing in your container garden, make sure you have all the tools and ingredients and pots and 'whatevers' you need to hand. This seems an obvious thought, but it made tip status because often enthusiasm overrules preparation and we start a job but can’t finish it because we run out of soil, or don’t have the right container or forgot to buy black bags or something. If, halfway through a job you need a pair of secateurs, know that the kitchen scissors will not do …
Mulching is a good gardening practice. It prevents water loss, can protect the roots, can add a feature to your container (colour and texture) and can be used to offset the focus plant which in turn will add to the beauty of the planter. You should also use mulch if your plants are water sensitive or placed in the hot sun all day long. Even plants that need full sun need protection. Natural mulches include peanut shells, bark, straw and twigs and have their place as do stones, pebbles, glass beads or shredded egg boxes (for the frugal gardener).
It doesn’t matter what you grow, drainage is a vital component of container gardening. As pretty as a pot may be, do not plant directly into it if there are no drainage holes (and you can’t make any – porcelain for instance). Use it instead as a cache pot. If containers rest directly on the ground without drip trays, they will probably not drain as well as they should which may lead to rotting roots or similar. Use drip trays or raise them off the ground on pot feet or bricks. Don’t let your plants sit in water.
Last edited by Lestie4containergardens; 10/06/2002:06 AM.
There is so much to say about the choice of containers so we’ll say more over time – but today’s tip is for those who like old galvanised tubs which can look quirky and be fun to use. They are good conductors of heat and so they change temperature with the weather and the season – freezing/very cold in winter and boiling/very hot in summer.
Line them inside completely, (bottom and round the sides) with a thick layer (10+sheets) of newsprint before you put in the soil … and before you plant. Don’t use the shiny colour-printed newspaper advertisement sheets – just the black and white printed newspaper (or plain newsprint if you can find a roll). Don’t block the drainage holes. The paper will disintegrate over time (years) but will protect plant roots from extreme temperatures.
There are a number of ‘opinions-to-be-had’ on things gardening and one is how to make your pots lighter and easier to move. Some say you can put seedling pots or cans or plastic bottles or polystyrene or some other filler material into the bottom and only fill the container from half way up with soil. Of course you can do this and it may help make your pots lighter. On the other hand, you may block drainage holes and the pots and containers will dry out faster and you may not be able to judge moisture levels easily. I live in a climate where pots do not have to be moved over winter so this is not a problem for me – still, I belong to the full-soil-pot brigade. Full pots equal happy plants with decent root space and easier maintenance tasks.
Some plants are invasive – though rather than use that word I prefer to put on my rose-tinted container-gardening glasses and say they are ‘enthusiastic’. Still, you may want to 'contain' them in your containers and you can do this by cutting off the bottom of a plastic pot then planting them in this. For instance - it will help stop something like mint from taking over your herb container. Mint is very enthusiastic! For watering reasons I also use this trick (contain in a cut off plastic pot in the ground/pot) for my Golden Barrel Cactus as it needs very little water.
When choosing what plants you will grow (after you have assessed all factors from your lifestyle and time available for gardening to availability of sunshine, space and so on), READ the plant information label that comes with what you buy. Note what the plant needs, what it will look like, how big it will grow, its shape or form is it trailing, spreading … and all else. A plant doesn’t speak English – it speaks this-is-who-I-am-and-what-I-do. I have made some expensive and sad mistakes when I mainly ‘ignored’ the plant labels because I liked the flowers … and I've lost plants or had to give them away.
We are aware of keeping the top half of our container plants trimmed and pruned and cut back and shaped and dead-headed and just plain good looking … but not as often are we aware of the state of the roots. For instance, after you loosen and tip a plant out of its nursery pot, inspect the roots with careful attention as to what they look like. Nursery stock is often root bound, may have dried out (!) or soggy rotting roots. Clean them up, trim them, loosen them and be gentle as you replant. Your plant will perform well because it is sitting pretty!
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