Hello Everyone!

Okay – so how is this for a test of doing versus not-doing.

I aim to … no I intend to … no I am going to put up a tip of the day for CONTAINER GARDENERS starting from today for at least 30 days.

Then I shall dare myself to do it for another 30 days. I wonder when I’ll run out of tips? Not sure. Maybe you will help me?

I hope you find these useful as maybe it will cover something new for you to consider or maybe they will just act as important reminders about some of the basics. Forget to forget and remember to remember!

Anyway here goes for September 12 to October 11 2020.


Nothing else will make your containers more beautiful for you than if you choose the flowers and plants that please you and match your lifestyle. Ask yourself why you are gardening in containers then act accordingly. How much time do you have to garden daily? Weekly? What’s your budget? How much light/sunshine does your space get and when? There are many other questions to ask but here’s the tip for today – match your container garden with your lifestyle.

Cheers now

When making plant choices, go with the ones you like, with the ones that suit your container space and their placement. Choose the ones that suit the light available – full sun, dappled shade or full shade. The garden centre will have all that are in season in your area or zone, consider their advice, but overall, choose plants you like.

Small pots and containers hold a smaller volume of soil (of course!), which means that they will dry out more quickly and need more attention. Bigger pots need to be watered less frequently so consider buying a bigger pot than you think you’ll need, especially when planting up a new container. There will be different advice and tips for when you are re-potting.


I’ve read about how the bottoms of containers are filled with lighter-than-soil materials (like polystyrene bits or plastic bottles and so on) to make it easier to move the planter (not so heavy) or save money (not so much soil), BUT I disagree. I can’t argue, it may work for many people, but my advice would be to choose your containers with care for the job at hand and then fill them with soil to give your container plants the best chance of growing and blooming and all else.
Hello Everyone,

I note that there are some replies to the tips of the day but I can't access them so can't comment etc. Is there some place else I should be looking? Help if you can please.

Many thanks

Butterflies and bees and ladybirds and their friends are welcome in any container garden so be sure to include plants that will attract these to your space. Salvia, Lavender, Bee Balm, Coreopsis, Butterfly Bush … oh so many more too … blues and purples and whites and ‘scenteds’ will all do this well.

Do you have roses in a container? If so, one of the pests you may have to deal with are aphids. Not good – but they are comparatively easy to control. Be persistent and use natural products whenever you can. Neem oil, or a mix of your own oils and water sprayed on will usually do the trick. You can also use a dishwashing liquid/water and cayenne pepper mix. Be careful to spray selectively as these measures will also kill beneficial insects. If you have the space, grow marigold nearby or lavender – aphids hate the scents these two plants give off.

It takes some thinking to understand that saying ‘less is more’ but it can be a good one to consider when you are planning your containers, especially if you only have room for a one or two pots. Don’t cram your pot full of every flower you like – go for a focal or specimen plant and complement it with others that match growing conditions. It’s your choice, don’t worry about what others will say. If ‘you do you’ your container garden will do the rest!

Watering your containers regularly and ‘correctly’ should probably head up your ‘To Do’ list. Surface watering is no good, you need to ensure the roots get the water, check the soil is moist and thoroughly watered. Capture the water in a drip tray (or saucer), allow to settle for a while then clear the drip tray – many if not most plants do not like sitting in water or having ‘wet feet’.

A change is as good as a holiday they say (and I agree). The change of season is also helpful but why not take stock of your containers and see what can be changed, swapped with a willing neighbour or just kissed goodbye? What about planning a theme pot garden … green and white? …yellow only (or monochrome any colour) … scented? There are so many wonderful plants and options that could step up to this plate that you will be spoilt for choice. Whatever, the end result will always be nice, because you did it.

There are many types of containers made of different materials and good reasons for using each in different circumstances and growing conditions. This we know, especially when we start out and choices can be confusing. Repurposing houseware items make fun garden containers, for instance old teapots, boots, enamel dishes or tins (remember drainage holes!) While it seems that everything has been used and there are no new ideas out there, that will not matter. If an idea is new to you, go for it, so what if it’s been done before! The important thing is that you are doing it now … and bringing a bit of whimsy into your garden space does wonders for a gardener’s heart!

There are many types of containers made of different materials and good reasons for using each in different circumstances and growing conditions. This we know, especially when we start out and choices can be confusing. Repurposing items from your home make fun garden containers, for instance old teapots, boots, enamel dishes or tins. While it seems that everything has been used and there are no new ideas out there, it will not matter. If an idea is new to you, go for it, so what if it’s been done before. The important thing is that you are doing it now … and bringing a bit of whimsy into your garden space does wonders for a gardener’s heart!

Your container gardening hardware also needs maintenance and ‘weeding’. At the end of your growing season, or the end of a plant's use or at the change of seasons, be sure to clean and tidy up. Empty and rinse out pots not in use (vinegar water is good for this), use them as you wish or over-winter them in a dry, not freezing, place (especially if the containers are older or not frost-proof). Past a sell-by date? Be ruthless - your container garden relies on you to maintain standards and cracked or ugly pots should be sent to pot heaven.

When choosing which flowering plants to grow in your containers, there are so many out there that a person just has to go with their favourite favourites … but don’t forget about foliage ‘only’ plants, or plants whose beauty lies more in their leaves than in any flowers they may produce. Leaf shapes, colour combinations and variety will surprise you once you start looking around.

As you know you don’t use garden ground in your pots – there would be just too much wrong with this for your containers. When setting out, buy good a good potting soil and compost (that suits your plant choices) and remember that even though this is a good base – you will need to supplement on a regular basis with fertilisers and other soil additives and enhancers such as micro nutrients and bone meal.

Everyone knows that succulents and cacti need excellent drainage and grow best in porous soils (not as for Bonsai) but more loose than not. If you grow these gorgeous plants don’t add compost but add river sand as a first choice or builders sand as a second choice. I am not sure what additives or chemicals are to be found in builders sand so that is why I suggest river sand. The best of course is to use cacti-specific potting mix which is readily available at the garden centres.

Do you use Epsom salts in your containers? The jury still seems to be out on this one. ‘My granny did, so I do’ is often heard. Some say that if you use Epsom salts your plants may get all of the required nutrients adequately because this product contains magnesium which is a mineral that promotes growth. Adding it enhances the absorption of basic nutrients (like nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur) which are found in the soil. Others say this is nonsense and that Epsom salts is a myth in terms of what it is supposed to do.

I water my containers 3 times a year with an Epsom salts solution – and have never had any trouble with my plants. And yes, my roses and tomatoes (particularly) love it, my yields of blossoms and fruit is great. My granny did and so do I.

To make container gardening as simple as possible, when choosing plants for your containers make sure that they work well together. This means that all the plants in the same pot should require the same or very similar growing conditions … soil, light, water. If you combine plants with different needs (just because they look pretty together), some of them will not thrive, may die and you will need to work harder to look after your container garden.

Everybody I know loves daisies and daisy bushes – they look cheerful and fill containers well BUT they need to be looked after. As with flowering plants in general, they need to be dead-headed regularly. It’s just part of the standard maintenance required to keep your containers in tip-top shape. Dead-heading (removing spent flowers) will encourage more flowering and healthy plants (besides giving you too many seeds than you can use!) Do it daily and it will never be a chore.
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 10/01/20 05:58 PM
Good reminder. My containers will need to be cleaned soon. The begonias and lantana were beautiful this year. Next year, I'm not planting veggies I'm going with flowers.
Hello Angie and Everyone,

Nice to hear from you ... sing songs or recite your favourite poems while you are cleaning your pots and the job is more easily done - this will even put a smile on your face!

Cheers now

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.

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!
Hello Angie,

Sorry I'm only getting to this now - just picked it up! Anyway.

I am not sure why you have chosen not to plant veggies again this year, perhaps it is because of the yield being so small from containers in small spaces? I agree with you on that but I continue to grow spinach (or Swiss Chard), tomatoes and potatoes as the yield with these three is worth the effort of planting and caring for the pots. I made a bean tee-pee too which was successful and worth the harvest.

You know what they say of people who do things that other people don't or can't or won't do ... they answer the question with "because I can!"

Keep finding joy in your gardening,


When you buy trays of seedlings of anything mixed – several herbs, or flowers or succulents (anything in numbers), have your container/s prepared (soiled up and placed) before you purchase so you can plant out as soon as you get home.

Then, before you actually plant the seedlings, remove them gently (don't pull them out by their necks, push them out from their roots) from the trays and place them in the pattern that suits the look you are after – mix and match. Only then plant them. If you just start by planting in a higgeldy piggeldy (love that expression) way, you may regret it and have to plant again ... just makes more work and upsets the tender seedlings.

There is a lot that is said about watering … here is some more! Water your containers in the morning (or around sunset) whenever possible because doing so minimises water loss through evaporation during the day, which in turn may mean you think the plants are getting enough moisture but they’re not. Also, try to water under the leaves and aim for the roots. Damp leaves could invite fungal diseases and other pests.

When transplanting, repotting or working with just-brought-home new plants from the nursery, plant each at the same depth it was in its previous pot/bag/container. The plant is used to that position and is growing well … if you sink it in too deep the watering may rot the stem bases or planted too high, the roots may dry out too soon or be exposed with watering. This is aka the Goldilocks factor … just right, and don’t we all seek Goldilocks in life!

If you are plagued by mosquitoes, bees, wasps and flies when you are sitting on the patio or having a picnic, you can cut a fresh lemon or lime in two (hopefully from your own container-grown tree) and stud it with cloves – make a spiral pattern for fun. Put a couple in the centre of the table and you will chase the bugs away.

I don’t want to lump the pollinators bees and wasps here (we really need them) in order to chase them away from your bee-friendly containers – this tip is just for those times you don’t want them near the table.

Bee friendly herbs include basil, citronella, garlic, lemon balm and then there are lavender, geraniums and marigolds … grow some why don’t you?

Consider growing dwarf varieties of whatever plants you choose for your containers, especially when it comes to fruit trees, shrubs and climbers. Perhaps the best thing to do at a nursery is to ask, get the advice you need then act on it. Dwarf varieties of your favourites are almost always ‘perfectly’ happy in containers.

Generally, ornamental plants do not need to be fed as frequently as vegetables since vegetables require more nutrition for them to produce good and better yields. This is especially true of vegetables grown in containers. Also, be sure to choose varieties bred for their short stature (see dwarf tip above) and propensity to thrive in containers.

‘Start out right and the Job’s half done’ is a South African proverb that works well here. Start out with the right container and the right composted soil growing in the right conditions (watering, drainage and sunlight); then use an organic liquid fertiliser and your harvest will be a good one. There are many brands of fertilisers out there – choose one that suits you.

Containers should be as wide as they are high in order to provide the best possible insulation for roots. Roses grow better in square containers (round pots stunt blooming because the roots go crazy going round and around). Leaving buckets of water outside in the sun (to use for watering your containers by hand) allows the chlorine to evaporate and for the water to become ‘energised’ by the sunlight. Planting a raw whole egg in at the bottom of a container is an excellent natural food source/fertiliser for plants. Banana skin water promotes growth and helps plants fight off pests.

Old wives’ tales? Nonsense? Maybe.

Anyone who has containers in frosty and snowy zones, and who may be facing the winter months, already knows that tender, evergreen or citrus trees must be moved inside for overwintering. Don’t take chances. Protect tree roots and 'bodies' from winter cold by putting your containers in a protected area, on a veranda, in a garage … anywhere you can to shield them from frost, icy winds and very low temperatures. Lift them off stone cold floors too, put them on bricks or blocks of wood. If you can, also use an insulating material to cover them during the coldest months. I guess you already know this and do it as a matter of course, just thought I would say it anyway; I know a couple of gardeners who have taken chances and subsequently lost plants to the very cold.

Frugal gardener? Can't move the pot/container? Use a bed sheet or light blanket instead but use stakes or supports to keep these from touching the leaves. Bought frost cloth is different, it doesn’t matter if it covers/touches plants. Some gardeners use plastic (bin bags etc.) … not my advice or choice.

Are you bored with your container garden? Has it been the same for too long? Want to change something but still love your plants? Why not paint your containers? Change their look? Hobby them up with some mosaic?

Just remember to choose a non-toxic and waterproof paint and then go for colours that will hold up in the sun. If you live in a hot sunny climate, use light-colours as this will reduce heat absorption and help keep the roots cool. It’s the same with cars … black and dark-coloured cars absorb heat while white/cream cars ‘reject’ it.

If you have a shady or perhaps neglected corner in your space (inside your home or on a balcony) you could try sprucing it up with a fern or two. All prefer organically-rich, well-drained soil, and most do well in moist shady areas – and if you have not yet considered ferns, please do so. They come in many shapes and colours, are more easy than not to cultivate and pay their way with tokens of delight.

Does a friend want to give you something from her garden? Is your neighbour thinning out plants and does he have a couple to give away? What’s the best way of moving plants from the ground to pots?

To start, water the plant that will be moved the night before. Really soak it so that the root system is well hydrated (helps minimise or withstand transplant shock). Check for and remove any stems or foliage that is dying. Last tip in this section for today is to transplant either early in the morning or evening when temperatures are generally cooler … this too will reduce transplant shock. Don’t move plants during the heat of the day.

‘Halloween hassle’ is a term I heard a ‘mom gardener’ use the other day in the context of there being so much to do at this time of year for her that she was extra pushed for time. Here is an idea she has to take a few shortcuts for her family and visitors.

She has re-potted some ivy (you can use anything that cascades or is spikey) in a series of plain ceramic pots of different sizes. On the front she has used a black marker and drawn some ‘Jack o’ Lantern faces, missing teeth and all, and will place them coming down her front steps from smallest to biggest pots. In between she intends to light some candles at the right time. Coming out of the pots too she has bright spray-painted (in orange, black and white) some dry squiggly garden sticks. The affect is good, the kids helped and they don’t seem to miss the idea of carved pumpkins. They can’t wait to put them up … could this work for you?

Containers come in all shapes sizes and materials, this you know, but sometimes we get used to what we have bought and used before and may not want to change.

If you need to move your pots for any reason (follow the sun/overwinter) then consider ‘lighter’ weight fabric bags that come in several sizes, square, round and rectangular and often with sturdy handles (that suit the design) You can also get polystyrene pots which are another option. And now for the nag. No matter what your container is made of, make sure there are drainage holes. Gravel or pot shards or similar, placed in the bottom of a container, can help stop the soil from blocking these.

…and following on from yesterday’s tip, it is important to take the overall weight of a container into account for reasons other than just moving it about. If you have set up a container garden on the ground floor deck that might be okay (depends on your flooring) but if you have a balcony in the sky or on a ‘common area’ rooftop, you need to factor in the weight of the container plus the contents (water and soil) plus the plant (fruit etc.) ‘as she grows’. Here, structural ‘weight capacity’ may be a safety issue. As you understand too, clay and ceramic pots are heavier than plastic or fabric. When I lived in a sectional title complex, permission had to be granted from the management Trustees for just this eventuality.

It is important (very is implied!) that you do not let your plants wilt or shrink before watering them. This kind of stress for the plant is unnecessary and bad practice. There are many times when a gardener is advised to wait for soil to dry out between watering days, and this is true to the extent that the plant still has some moisture, just test with your finger to be sure … but letting the soil dry out completely is not sensible. It’s one of those gardening instructions that are often taken to the letter and not in the spirit in which it is given.

As you can guess, overwatering is just as bad as under watering, and this is one of the most common novice gardener mistakes that are made..

A lot of the time, tips and advice and bits of handed-down wisdom is known and there seems to be nothing new, BUT if you are just starting out with your container garden (or having to start over because you lost it all) remember it’s okay for your garden to be a work in progress. All the best of gardens usually are! If you have expensive dreams and an inexpensive budget, be patient. Take baby steps. Work in sections. Build up slowly but surely. Do not say ‘can’t afford it so will do nothing’. What would your Granny say?
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 10/31/20 01:38 AM
Remember to bring in the plants you want to save over the winter before the first frost.
Hello Angie and All,

Thanks for this timely tip, it's often such a busy time of the year for all sorts of reasons that the up-coming suggested first frost date escapes our collective attention and then we are either fussing at night to drag them in or they succumb to the icy conditions. Any such stress will hurt the plant beyond the frost - it will take longer to 'regroup' and be cold while trying.

I hope your winter and the up-coming holiday season is as frost free as you would want it to be!

Just planting a plant in a container does not a container garden make. There is so much to say on this subject that it is too big for ‘just’ a tip of the day, but plants have feelings too. I know because I talk to mine. You do too? Oh well that’s it then, we know don’t we.

Still they were saying to me the other day that I really ought to pretty up their pots with a treatment. A treatment I said? Yes, they answered, use paint if you can or decoupage or mosaic, you know, make us look pretty in some way. And then they said what about adding a bit of whimsy to our space. Whimsy I said, what’s whimsy? Oh, you know, a bit of art from your heart, like pebbles around our bases, or art on the walls nearby or a trellis or two with a pretty creeper or (and this they whispered) you could even add a gnome or a faerie. Okay I said, I’ll see what I can do. I’m sure I heard a sigh ... or maybe it was just the wind.
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 10/31/20 05:58 PM
Winter is what winter wants to be.
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 10/31/20 06:01 PM
Winter is what winter wants to be. I think I mentioned that I am going to have lots of flowers next year and no veggies. The impatiens, begonias, lantanas were just beautiful on my deck this year. Veggies were puny and what I had squirrels ate.
Hi Angie and all,

Your plans sound good but please don't give up completely on veggies!

Try spinach at least and some easy herbs (parsley, 'garlic' dill, basil) ... does anyone know of a vegetable that the squirrels don't like and which are container style? Help!

Go well anyway.

By the way the last time I looked Lantana is a banned plant here in South Africa (considered invasive). I am sorry to say this because it is such a pretty plant.

Cheers now

Geraniums have to be some of anyone's favourites because they are so nice to have (and easy to grow) especially the creeping ones for hanging baskets and the scented ones for any fragrant garden container.

Did you know the leaves are 'edible'. I haven't eaten them but they are safe to use in the kitchen. They scent things, they add flavour, which is great. This is what I use them for.

Below is the first tip to using the leaves and tomorrow I will post the second.

It is really just plain nice to have scented sugars in the kitchen to use for black teas, herb teas and other infusions (not milky teas).

Put about three leaves at the bottom of your sugar caddy and cover with sugar (any kind of sugar you have or use), then place more fresh leaves halfway up, and then place some on top and just close the jar. The flavour infuses and gives your drinkables an indefinable something that is really nice.
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 11/02/20 07:56 PM
Lantana works well in a pot on the deck.
Hello Angie,

Yes I think so too (with some reservation) - it's does all three - it fills, it spills and it thrills! It also makes a good shrub or hedge but it takes work to keep it shaped nicely. Still, it offers a wonderful display when in bloom.

For my time though it is too much of a squeaky wheel for a container plant and is better in the garden.

Cheers now

Following on from yesterday, another thing I do with geranium/pelargonium leaves is (use any of the varieties of flavours you get, but choose from one plant) line the bottom of a prepared cake tin.

Use clean, fresh leaves only, no stalks, and cover the bottom of your cake tin completely with a single layer of leaves. Then add cake mixture and bake as always.

When the cake is baked and cooled, if you need to, trim the 'top' to make sure it's even, then turn it up-side-down, just peel off the leaves and dust cake with same-scented sifted icing sugar. Use for Madeira style and Victoria sponge cakes or similar. Your guests will ask for your secret!

I am not sure that this is a gardening tip per se - still, it presupposes you are growing or will grow a geranium or two in a container. They are such rewarding plants and you are spoilt for choice of colours and splash. They definitely have an inbuilt wow factor.

Sometimes we are reluctant to grow veggies because of the yields (unless you have space for several pots).

But, and for instance, garlic, leeks and shallots/spring onions make great container gardening edibles, and as you guess, join many herbs by not taking up too much space and by making for good repetitive harvesting. These three also have very few insect and disease problems, which is a bonus, and they have shallow roots too, so your container choices are more varied (can be wide and shallow).

With style in mind too, your containers should be sized to the area you have available and plants should be sized to the container.

How are you doing with growing herbs in your containers? I came across a wonderful book on my bookshelves recently written by the late Margaret Roberts, a renowned herbalist (and so much more) here in South Africa. I thought I would wander around its pages and pick up interesting info on some of our favourites.

PARSLEY - Quick facts.

Likes compost rich normal potting soil. Needs good drainage. Allow 20cms between seedlings when planting. Can 'eat' leaves and stalks. 15-25 cms full height. Is propagated from seed (I like buying the seedlings already on their way!) Must have full sun.

Medicinal uses include: Diuretic; detoxifying, breath freshener, mineral rich tonic (add to juicing recipes). Use as garnish, in salads, chop into savoury dishes.

I will add other herbs on other days and every now and then. Please grow some Parsley which is not garsley.

I saw a balcony container garden the other day and was so impressed by its cohesion. Maybe this is an odd thing to say, but it's the word that comes to mind that best describes what I want to say. It all hung together - there were no jarring notes, the colour scheme flowed, the plants looked as if they knew how to behave and the effect was amazing. I chatted to the owner (a new garden club member) and asked her how she did it.

She was puzzled at first, it seems my comments and questions made her scratch her head. Anyway, to cut a long conversation short, we both worked out it was because she chose a colour scheme and stuck to it. And that this colour scheme was reliant on the wall cladding of the balcony. And that this was by chance, because she had rented this apartment because she liked the wall cladding!

Okay. Essentially what she did was paint the pots in shades and tones of the wall tiles which meant she had pots going from cream to beige to peanut-butter to rust and even black. By default she had chosen plants, foliage and flowers that blended with this (though she had not meant to - she just had). In the end she was laughing at herself - "and there my favourite, favourite colour is pink, and I don't have one pink thing in my garden!"

Well I suppose I could have written the TIP 'consider painting your containers in shades to match your wall cladding' but it wouldn't have made much sense, so I am pleased you read this far!
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 11/07/20 02:58 PM
some people are just artistic - layout of a garden; design; artistry.... and some are not.
Hello there,

Oh no Angie, I disagree! Each and every gardener is creative and has a style of their own. Could be that they haven't tested it yet, and if this is the case then a person can 'borrow' looks and ideas and style from a million places including the next door garden, magazines and books and photographs, the nursery and garden centres, and just plain thinking about how to use what you like.

I suppose you could say some people are better ballet dancers than others, or better at crafting whatever, so I guess you would be right in some way, still, I believe there is a way for every one to be a 'ballet dancer' or crafter or whatever.

Gardening is such a satisfying past-time, lucky us!

Cheers now

If you are a budget gardener (and aren't we all?) then look out for the clearance sales at nurseries and garden centres and shops whenever the seasons change. I guess you know this, as we are all aware of the pleasure finding a bargain gives, but this comment made tip status because many times we think we will do something that we ought to want to do but end up not doing anything in time.

There is always so much to do, but please put a 'trip to your centre/shop' on your 'to do' list now.

Plant bargains may look tired but with your care will bounce back in the new season. Of course you will know which plants are worth saving and buying, but essentially don't be put off by a few scrappy leaves or lack of flowers. Sometimes too, there may be plants on sale that you have never thought of or grown before and which will make a great addition to your container space.

Go and save a plant or two soon ... these 'green kids' are worth it!

Not everybody likes everybody and it's the same with plants too! Companion planting is a well-known subject and worthy of study for anyone serious about getting the best container gardens they can.

Are you growing green beans? Do you have or have you had a bean teepee? Well if you are planning to grow some in the summer then be careful not to plant them too close to any member of the onion family, they just don't get on well. Also, don't plant them close to or with dill, fennel or garlic (even though these three are great for cooking/flavouring beans).

Good companions? Yes, beans get on well with beetroot, carrots, nasturtiums, peppers, strawberries and winter savory.

So, plan to add beans to your veggie containers, they are easy to grow and the harvest is worth your while.

Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are well suited to growing in containers and while there are small varieties available (better for pots) the smallest size container you should use is a gallon.

Anyway, did you know that the flowers are edible? The tastes vary from sweet to floral to a bit astringent and metallic, depending on the hybrids you plant. Traditionally it is the buds that are used in Chinese cooking, stir-fries and hot and sour soups. You get Japanese tempura (oh how I wish I could do this light and crispy delicious trick in the kitchen!) and if you remove the stamens and pistils you can stuff the flower with something savoury and saute it/them. It is so pretty too that you can add the flowers to desserts, salads or use them to dolly up cocktails.

They are evergreen so, even when they are not in flower, they will not let your container garden down and can be used as a backdrop filler.

Allow the foliage of any spring bulbs to go yellow and die back naturally. Of course this is not easy when you have containers on show. Still, this is best practice. Maybe you can hide the pots behind a screen? Ask a friend to keep them in her garden for you? Anyway, continue to feed and water those bulbs that you want to dig up once the foliage has gone. Letting the leaves die back at their own pace and watering and feeding in the meantime will allow the bulbs to store food for their next season

Here is a tip from Jessica Carson ex-Container Gardening Editor for Bellaonline.

I don't get these kinds of severe winters where I live so I thought that for those who do it would be useful to pass this on to you all again. Of course, there are many who do not have a garden per se, but for those who do she says:

If you live in an area with severe winters, consider burying your dormant plants to prevent the roots from freezing. The “Minnesota Tip” method may sound severe, but it may be the only way to winter over your roses, maples, hydrangeas, and other hardy deciduous shrubs and trees.

Dig a trench at least 15 inches deep (deeper, if needed, so that the entire pot will be buried when laying on its side) and as wide at the plant. Wrap or tie the branches of the tree together and tip the plant and container on its side into the trench. Cover with burlap, then cover completely with a 12-24 inch thick layer of mulch of straw or leaves. Top this off with a plastic tarp and rocks to hold it all in place. In the spring when the soil starts to thaw, dig out the plant, set it in a protected area of your garden and start watering. If it is fairly hardy it may very well reward you with new growth.

As you know, many plants growing in pots may need to be watered as often as twice a day. To keep plants adequately cool and moist during the very hot summer days … ‘double pot’. Double-potting means putting one smaller container inside another larger one (preferably the same design) and filling the space between them with newspaper (frugal) or sphagnum moss/coir. I have used small bark mulch with success too. When you water the plant also water the filler – it certainly helps cool down and protect roots too.

Of course, any of the tips given here in this forum will depend on the kind of container garden you have ... but they all work, that's a promise!

Why not follow the song .... Parsley Sage, Rosemary and Thyme? Next up then is:

SAGE - Quick Facts

Sage is okay with everyday soil. Needs good drainage. Allow 30-40 space between seedlings (the plant will grow 30-50 cms high). You can use leaves, flowers and sprigs and you can propagate from seed and cuttings. It really does not like wet feet' and loves full sun.

Medicinal uses include: Make a tea with the leaves and use as a gargle for sore throats, coughs, colds. It can be used as an antiseptic and even helps with memory. I wonder if this last use has anything to do with being a sage person and a wise one?

In the kitchen, well, who doesn't like sage stuffing with the Sunday toast? It can also be used in stir fries, a secret ingredient in the stuffing for home-made sausages, add to the marinade for meats and in sauces for vegetables.

How are you doing with growing herbs in your containers?

There is often a pest hanging around in life not so? Ah well, I guess pests bring a balance of sorts … like when they say a weed is just a plant they haven’t found a use for. Anyway – a good idea is to check your plants regularly for evidence of pests. It could be that you don’t or can’t see them, but they are there because you see the evidence, you may have holes in leaves, nibbled blooms, foliage that looks like lace and not leaf, curling or twisted leaves and more.

Some pests are easy to get rid of, others need more attention but you need to treat each case correctly. Plants are like us, when they are clean, neat, in good soil, have the right conditions, watered just so and etc., they don’t invite unwelcome guests, they don’t get sick easily. But when your plants are weak, undernourished, under-watered and they are pesty, well, I think that proves that aphids and mealie bugs (and their friends) are intelligent, they know just where to go!

Try to treat your containers organically, avoid chemicals, use natural sprays and systemic pest control products whenever possible.

When speaking of things going wrong with your container plants, pests are one aspect, but what about others such as leaf drop? Well some leaf drop on container and house plants is normal and older plants should be expected to drop a leaf or two occasionally. But if this is a worry for you then consider the following and correct the situation where you can.

Plants drop their leaves for various reasons and these include: low humidity (e.g. gardenia); tired (or used up) soil; marked light and temperature changes; poor growing conditions (or unsuitable growing conditions for the specific plant); pot may be too small or plant has outgrown the container and is root bound (and so cannot take up water and nutrients properly) and finally here, it may be transplant shock.

Of course the biggest reason that plants drop leaves is over-or-under watering. Check this first and you may solve the problem quickly.

We can look at brown tips on leaves and yellow leaves and root problems on other TIP days.

Container gardening is easy ... but it it hard work, and in that word 'hard' are those other ideas like 'consistency' and 'knowledge'. There is so much to say about this and as a container gardener I am sure you know what I mean - it does take self-discipline and intent to keep a container garden going and looking good. Of course behind this is the love you have of flowers and plants and all things green touched with some passion and the love of sitting back in your space that you created. Why say all this? Well, I just want you to know that I applaud you for what you do!

When speaking of HARD, you can imagine it would be very hard to replant an established tree that you have decided to grow in a container, so plan ahead if this is what you want to do. How big will the tree grow in a couple of years? Is it the a dwarf variety? Is it deciduous or evergreen? Does it suit your space? Can it withstand your weather conditions and if not, how can you support/protect it? Of course there are many other questions that could be asked here - you would need to assess your own situation.

Choose the 'right' container from the outset (amongst other factors it must be able to support your mature tree) and, with the end image in your mind, just keep potting up as the sapling grows until it reaches the size that suits in the container you have chosen. In the meantime, as it's growing you can certainly share its space with other flowering plants.

I did that with my lemon tree and it looks so good today. I still have drooping allysum and lobelia sharing its space with bark mulch. Looks good. Grows well. Gives me fruit. I love it!

There is so much you can do with a container! If you want to add a vertical aspect to your space, you can grow climbers and creepers (and even some ‘creeping’ shrubs like bougainvillea or hydrangea) and bring a real splash of nature to a wall or moss-stick near you. Add some trellis or some steel plant props to your pots, make the difficult choice of which ones to plant then sit back and enjoy them as they grow and keep you sane. Stuck? Just choose a variety of Ivy – miniature, small, big, bi-colour, crinkled … my friend says ivy is a cliché in the garden and I say so what! It’s a cliché because it’s so popular and pretty and successful and easy to grow.
CONTAINER GARDENING TIP OF THE DAY ... Saturday just turned into Sunday this week!

Sometimes you want to change the look of your indoor plants and balcony containers and there is nothing wrong with mixing it up and giving your houseplants a bit of fresh air by moving them from inside to outside, especially when spring comes. I think they like it, more so if you tell them what you are going to do and why (smile please) then move them out slowly or step by step as it were. They need to get used to being ‘outdoors’ or to their new positions, and you don’t want to stress them by shocking them into droopy leaves and more.

Make sure their leaves are clean, check for sneaky bugs, check fertiliser and water needs and put them in dappled shade for a while before (or if) you intend to place them in a full sun position. Of course, all this depends on what plants you have.

I have just started to do something (well over the past few months) and it’s working. I think. I have a large plastic bucket (a pretty one) in my kitchen and whenever I boil potatoes or eggs or vegetables, I strain the water and add it to this to cool down. Before this I just used to throw the water down the drain.

When it’s about ¾ full and I can still carry the bucket, I use this water for my containers. I know that the egg water adds a measure of calcium to the plants and I am sure there must be some goodness in the other cooked-in ‘water’.

I am thankfully old enough not to need scientific evidence that comes in screeds of small print that is packaged with cautionary tales of professional indemnity! My plants haven’t complained yet so I aim to carry on. Maybe you can consider doing this and let me know what you think?

I don’t have to wait for it to be ¾ full – in fact I do not keep this water for longer than a day before I use it. I am not into scientific experiments!

Today’s tip is all about you. And being creative. And cherishing yourself.

By establishing and taking care of plants (even if it is only one container) you are essentially taking care of yourself. Not all realise this but it is true – speak to any gardener and they might just smile. They will have stories to tell and share, but they will smile.

It doesn’t matter how big your garden is, the endeavour is a soothing and therapeutic past-time. Just having plants around you to care for gives you focus, improves your general mood and lowers stress levels while boosting productivity. Wow. All that from just having a plant to water and care for. Sounds like a very fair exchange to me.

It’s month-end essentially – why not indulge yourself and get another pot plant for your collection or buy one for someone else? Perhaps there is space for another succulent or maybe a spent 'spiller' could be replaced?

"Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint and the soil and sky as canvas." Elizabeth Murray.

"We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it's our garden that is really nurturing us." Jenny Uglow

There are always a lot of little jobs that you can or need to do in your container garden and one is to check that your plants’ leaves are not dusty (something that happens more often than not). Besides aesthetics, dusting the leaves helps the plants to photosynthesize optimally.

While there are products on the market that you can buy to make leaves look glossy and all, I have found that these are oil-based somehow and often just attract more dust. That and using milk to clean your leaves. I used to use/do both but don’t do so anymore. Besides, it’s easy to get some on the undersides of the leaves and block their ability to ‘breathe’.

Just cut a large enough corner off one of those kitchen sponges, wet it with plain water and it will do the job very well; it is small enough to reach all the nooks and crannies and cleaning is so easy. Rinsing the sponge is too .

Of course this doesn’t work for violets and any of her other furry-leaved friends. For these I use a dedicated paint brush.

What do you do with your empty cardboard (not polystyrene) egg cartons and trays?

Some uses are obvious, like giving them to the local charity or school tuck shop that sells fresh eggs from farmers, or using some of them for kid's school projects or crafts. You could also use them to germinate seeds and I have done all of these; but the latest trick someone taught me is to tear them up into little bitty pieces
(I know!) and recycle them by adding them to my pots about halfway up … sort of where you might throw in the bone meal.

They retain moisture for a lot longer and help roots in search of humidity when you are on holiday or in a forgetful mood. It works.

If you have more than a container garden, then just add the bits to the soil at will. The good thing is that they are bio-degradable and will disappear over time anyway. Of course, you should remove any price stickers or branding labels because they are not bio-degradable.

Do you like Chinese Takeaways? Kebabs? Fruit skewers for breakfast? Well you can collect the ‘chop sticks’ and use them in your containers to prop up growing plants … just until the stems get strong enough to stand alone. I first saw this used in a clever if temporary way and realised it could suit other needs too.

The lady had some Busy Lizzies (Impatiens) which had not really had enough sunlight and were getting leggy as they reached out for more light. The thing is they were still blooming and looking so very pretty and cheerful, even if they were flopping all over the pots.

Armed with some unused skewers she made a sort of a tepee around the plants, propped them up then filled in the spaces with some sphagnum moss. She then used these small containers as centre table decorations at a barbecue.

Smart thinking Batman.
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 11/28/20 01:32 PM
very few empty cardboard/paper egg cartons here.
Hello Angie and all,

How do you get/buy/transport eggs ... in polystyrene boxes? Seems there could be a business opportunity there for someone who is entrepreneurial and cares about the environment. Recycling is all the rage for obvious reasons. Polystyrene is a form of plastic and we have read, plastic products have caused untold damage to the environment because of our poor management of waste.

Anyway, thanks for the information, keep going in your container garden!

Here is another Saturday-that-turned-into-Sunday-before-everything-Saturday-had-been-done tip!

Add coffee grounds to enhance your soil. I have written about the use of coffee grounds in containers in an article previously published on this website under soil management, so this tip is just a reminder, and a very short one at that. Please, wander around the site and do some extra reading on the subject. Anyway.

If you drink filtre-coffee and land up with coffee grounds that you would more usually throw away, don’t, add them to your soil. How much? Well just use your common sense … I have never tried to grow anything in only coffee grounds but just put enough in your pots that makes sense to you. The addition can attract earthworms (good), deter some pests (good) and can give your soil an acidic boost for plants like maidenhair ferns, azaleas or blueberries (also good). The earthworms will come of course if your pots happen to be bottomless and ‘contained’ in the ground. We can talk about bottomless containers another time if you like.

If you have too much coffee for the number of pots you have, share with the neighbour and all, not everyone has access to this valuable resource … instant coffee drinkers for example.

By the way, you can do this only with used coffee … ground coffee from a packet or unground or whole beans will not work. I had a conversation with my ferns the other days and they told me they liked an Arabica blend best. Go figure!
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 11/29/20 11:49 PM
one or two stores have the cardboard egg cartons. Most have the Styrofoam. I don't want to run to so many stores to be ecological. It uses too much gas.
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 11/29/20 11:51 PM
About the coffee grounds, I decided to have coffee today and I tossed the grounds into the garden.

Are you going away this year? Need to keep your plants hydrated?

Many of the usual travel plans seemed to have been disrupted in this Covid-19 year, and many may prefer to stay at home for safety reasons anyway … but if you are going away, and do not have or want a friendly neighbour in to water your plants, there are all sorts of tips around. Here are two reminders and a choice.

You can use absorbent diapers/nappies in a bath/tub/basin/sink of water and place your plant/s on top of this moist layer or you can use some cotton wick wrapped around or tucked 2”+ into the soil in your container. The other end will be in an-as-large-as-you-need container of water. The cotton string (make sure it's thick enough, skinny string will not do) draws up the water and transfers it to your plant. School science was useful not so? Smile now.

Some people use ice cubes, not particularly because they go away, but because it helps make watering their plants easier. They place ice cubes on the soil at intervals (not touching the stems or leaves) and the water melts slowly during the week. Perhaps you could try this?

When you start planning your new containers and want to grow plants and herbs from seeds, there are many items around the kitchen that can be used. Who knows, you may already have used them before some are now your favourites having been tried and tested. Besides the seedling trays that you can purchase (why buy when you don’t have to?) you can use cut up cardboard egg boxes.

These are cute enough containers which you prepare, fill with soil, plant seeds, water then wait for your seeds to germinate. Remember to punch a hole in the bottom of the cardboard for drainage. I am not sure that everyone does this but I don’t think you can go wrong. You can even use half-egg shells for the same effect (just crack the eggs as carefully in half as you can). Use a pin to make a hole in the bottom, fill them with soil plant your seed/s, water and then prop these up in the egg box.

As starter pots for seeds, you can also use half-peels from any citrus fruit like oranges, grapefruits or limes. Tangerines would not work here. All you do is hollow out the peel until just a thin layer of pith and the rind remains, punch a hole in the bottom, fill each with soil then plant your seeds or rooted/propagated ‘something’, water then wait. Of course you must check on your seeds, they should always be moist not wet or drowning. Once your seedlings are on their way, then transplant/add them to the container you have chosen.

You will be on your way with a smile this way ... but, if you do this and do not land up smiling, please send us an email!

I saw an idea that I can’t do in my space, but this lady had an archway at the entrance to her patio area which was actually a doorway at the top of 5 steps onto an odd shaped balcony. Picture it? Please try, because what she had done was charming. There was some extra space at the top of the steps next to the door and she had made good use of it. I asked if she had built it like this and she said no but that she had paved the steps and the landing with crazy paving. Note to self. Make use of the materials you have got, you can be different.

She had two 20-gallon containers (with drainage holes) and drip trays/saucers placed on the top step on each side of the door (which she had painted an electric blue (!) In the pots she had buried two (each) rebars about waist high. Attached to this, with cable ties, was a custom-cut strip of bent livestock panel which was strong enough to support the canary creeper she had trained from one pot to the other.

It was in bloom when I saw it and oh so pretty. She kept the creeper tidy and the pot spilled over with purple lobelia and white alyssum … with some orange miniature marigolds as the fillers.

The impact was stunning, the choice of colours, the odd mix of plants she’d used and the painted door was amazing. If you can do something like this, please do.

I have not tried this yet, but I read that you can clean your plant leaves (glossy leaves not the hairy or furry ones) with banana peels. Seems a different idea and I will try it soon, just need to get a philodendron or something similar in place first. Again, you don’t clean the undersides of the leaves and I would assume don’t leave any ‘banana’ on the leaves … the skin is supposed just to remove the dust and not make the leaves sticky and gunky. Using banana skins this way also repels aphids, and that has to be a good thing too.

Two tips today to make up for missing yesterday!
Posted By: Angie Re: Container Gardening TIP OF THE DAY - 12/03/20 01:52 AM
Interesting. you use the outside of the banana peel because the inside would be a bit gooey wouldn't it?
Hello Angie and everyone,

No, you do use the gooey inside ... I am off out today and armed with banana skin, I am going to the nursery to ask if I can try it on a suitable plant that I should have one of (!) then I will report back to you all.

I think that the best skins to use will be 'fresh' new bananas and not when the banana is soft like you might use to make banana bread. When they are soft they are extra gooey. Anyway, let's see, I will let you know as soon as I can. Yay! A trip to the nursery - I hope I don't buy anything.


Now here is something I have just learnt – so hopefully this it is not just a reminder for you too! You can share your club soda with your containers. Because of the bubbles? Not sure that this would be an immediate follow-up question but some may ask it. No, it’s not because of the bubbles, it’s because club soda contains minerals that plants love. These include phosphorous, potassium, sulphur and sodium; and they all help plants to grow bigger and greener and deter pests because the plants are healthy. I shall be certainly adding more club soda to my shopping list in future.

Now here is something I have just learnt – so hopefully this it is not just a reminder for you too!

You can share your club soda with your containers. Because of the bubbles? Not sure that this would be an immediate follow-up question but some may ask it. No, it’s not because of the bubbles, it’s because club soda contains minerals that plants love. These include phosphorous, potassium, sulphur and sodium; and they all help plants to grow bigger and greener and deter pests because the plants are healthy.

I shall certainly be adding more club soda to my shopping list in future.
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