If you want to boost your reputation for successful container gardening, these tips should help you.
When mid-summer heat begins to work its stressful magic on your containers and hanging baskets, here are a few practical tips to succeed and keep them alive and thriving.
I recommend watering a container gardening plant only when it needs it and every basket out there will be on a different schedule because of its location or its contents.
The rule of thumb is to thoroughly soak the container when you water so that at least 20 per cent of the water flows through the basket and out the bottom.
That’s every time you water, soak so the water pours out the bottom. Then, don’t water again until the pot needs it.
And yes, this is the same rule for small containers and the biggest you can imagine.
Sweet potato vine containers
Now we’ll know when it needs it because the pot soil will be dry to the touch or the pot will be lighter in weight. I go around to our pots and gently push up with a finger on the bottom of the pot.
A few days of doing this (the finger push up test) and you’ll begin to learn how the pot feels immediately after a watering and a few days (or hours) later when it is so light it is begging for water. This weight check is the easiest system of evaluating the needs of the hanging basket for water but it’s a touch tricky to do for standing pots or window boxes.
In this case, merely reach into the container with your finger and touch the soil. If the soil is damp, it doesn’t need water. If the soil is dry, water until twenty per cent of the water has poured out the bottom of the box.
The Fly in the Ointment
The only fly in this ointment is that sometimes the soilless soils that are used in container gardening and window boxes will get too dry and when this happens, they actually shrink away from the sides of the container.
When they shrink and the gardener happily pours water into the pot, the water immediately shoots to the bottom down these shrunken channels and flows out. The unwary gardener will assume the pot is watered because of the water flowing out the bottom of the pot and will stop watering.
Meanwhile the poor plant is still in a desert condition and deteriorates even further. The gardener complains about the poor performance of the plant and how it couldn’t be a water problem because the plant gets watered every few days.
The solution to this is the finger push up weight test to find out how light the pot is and a thorough soaking in a large tub (try the kid’s wading pool) or repeated slow waterings 1/2 hour apart for several hours to allow the soil ball to thoroughly soak itself and expand to the pot walls.
Doug’s First Rule of Gardening
The second tip is just as important to the continued blossoming of the hanging basket.
I refer of course to Doug’s first rule of gardening: you only have to fertilize your plants if you want growth, flowers or fruit.
If you want none of these, forget the feeding.
By watering the hanging basket in the proper manner, you will be forcing water and soluble nutrients out the bottom of the pot at every watering. If you don’t replace these nutrients, the available food in the pot will very quickly disappear, leaving your plants to elongate, grow pale and stop blooming. In short, without feeding, your container gardening efforts will start to look pretty sad by the end of July.
Feeding Is Easy
It is really simple to feed a container plant.
- I use fish emulsion on all my plants.
- Or, get some house plant food, the water soluble blue stuff, and apply it at least once a week.
If you use a balanced analysis, one where all three numbers are roughly the same, your plants will respond very quickly to this loving care. It doesn’t really matter which brand you use (they’re all pretty much the same) just so long as you do feed your container gardening plants on a regular basis.
If you feed them and water them regularly when they need it, your container gardening efforts will pay off and will provide you with blossoms for the remainder of the summer.