Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Secrets to Success: Tip Number One

When my friend Maureen came to visit last month, she suggested I do a post to summarize all of the things I do to help make my garden thrive. A good idea, I thought, but that would be too wordy for a single post so I've decided to make it a brief series, revisiting it over the next several months. I'll plan to provide a summary of all the points in advance of next year's growing season so you'll have them condensed in one place.

Of course, one could go on and on talking about what each plant requires to succeed in a garden but there are some fundamental things that, if you don't do them, you are likely to be in for some heartache and disappointment (not to mention an emptier wallet).

So first on my list is elevation and drainage. I cannot stress this enough because if there is one thing that thoroughly demoralizes the beginning gardener it's a plant's failure to thrive due to lack of drainage and airflow beneath the container.

The solutions are simple and quite inexpensive (relative to the cost of your plants). First, get some pot feet (see above photo). They'll cost you about a buck apiece. For a round pot, you only really need three but for a square or rectangular, of course, buy four. You can find them at nearly every nursery or garden center. Oh sure, you can get all fancy and buy the ones that look like tiger paws or frogs or snails or whatever (they cost more, by the way) that's up to you. What these provide is elevation so that air can flow beneath the pot. Alternatively, you could buy a plant stand (as long as the surface allows the water from the pot to drain through). Whatever you do, don't waste your time with the matching saucer for the pot, that's not going to do the trick, get pot feet instead.

Which leads me to drainage. Be sure all pots or containers have drainage holes. If they don't drill some if the structure of the pot can withstand it. (See my post from the beginning of the season) If it can't, don't plant in it or else you are setting yourself up for disappointment--don't say I didn't warn you. Also, you'll want to put some sort of material in the bottom of the pot to facilitate drainage prior to adding the soil. I use styrofoam peanuts but you can use gravel from your driveway or broken pot shards. The point is, you don't want soil packed down at the base of your container preventing the water from draining through. That road leads directly to root rot. Best to avoid it.

So there you have it. Tip Number One.

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