Taking care of plants in garden pots is a bit different than maintaining traditional “in ground” gardens. Here’s how to take good care of your IOTA garden pot plantings.
Garden pot plants are in small, self-contained worlds. The plants can’t grow deep roots into the surrounding soil and excess water doesn’t drain or evaporate as fast from a container as it does from soil in the ground. Plastic garden pots keep water even longer than ceramic or clay pots. Timing of watering changes as plants grow. When plants are larger, they need more water. As their roots grow and take up more space in the container, water drains faster. Water a couple of times a week when the plants are small. If the soil is dry down to your second knuckle of your index finger when you stick your finger in the soil, the container needs water.
One trick to keeping garden pots watered when it is extremely hot is to water the container until water runs out the bottom, and fill the saucer upon which the container is sitting with water so it is available during the day. Or if no saucer is available have a look at a water reservoir system like Plantpals from GardenWare.
If you’re installing container gardens in public places, drip irrigation systems are useful. That makes it easier to care for the garden pots, as you won’t have to check them to water them as often.
If you planted your container garden with potting mix that has slow-release fertilizer in it, you won’t have to fertilize for a couple of months. If you’re planting garden pots for a public space, adding slow-release fertilizer is a must. If you don’t use slow-release fertilizer, you’ll have to water with liquid fertilizer. Read the fertilizer package directions to measure the correct amount and mix the fertilizer with water. Water the plants as you normally would, but don’t let much water run out the bottom of the container.
When fertilizing resist the urge to use more than the directions indicate. More is not better! Plants and soil can only use so much fertilizer, and excess drains off and into the groundwater, causing problems downstream.
To keep your plants in garden pots looking “clean,” remove the deadheads, or faded flowers. Some plant stems are soft enough that you can pinch off the dead flowers with your fingers. Others require pruning shears. Where you cut depends on the flower.
Some plants flower at the top of long stems. Once the flower is done blooming, nothing else will grow along the stem. In that case, cut the stem all the way back to the leaves at the base of the stem. Other flowers will re-sprout from along the stem. You can tell if that’s the case by looking for a leaf with a tiny swelling or bud between the leaf and the stem. If that’s the case, just remove the flower and part of the stem by cutting back to the bud.
Changing Garden Pot Plantings with the Seasons
Part of container garden care is renewing and refreshing. Sure, you can dump your garden in the fall and haul the plants to the compost bin, but you can also re-plant part or all of each container. To take a container from summer to winter, plant a small tree or shrub with evergreen leaves or interesting branch structure and color. You can then just replace the smaller surrounding plants with the seasons, adding pansies for autumn, winter, and spring, perennials for summer and winter, and bulbs for spring.