Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Let's Review: Read the Label

Read the label.
Wherever you buy your plant, it will likely have a plant tag or a label stuck in the soil. This is not for decoration. It's important to pay attention to the information on it. It can be the difference between your delight or your disappointment. I'll tell you why. That tag lets you know under what conditions your plant will thrive such as full sun (6 or more hours of sun) or full shade. This is probably the most important fact on the label because if you put a shade plant (such as a fern) in the full sun, it will die a miserable death. And if you put a tomato plant in full shade, you'll go all summer without a single piece of fruit.  

The label will also tell you the dimensions of the plant when it reaches full size, which can guide you in selecting the proper size pot. It will also tell you the plant's hardiness zone. If it's a perennial and you have hopes of it surviving the winter, be sure it's hardy to your zone. I usually subtract two zones because plants in pots are more exposed to the elements. Here in Virginia, it's zone 7 so if I have any hopes for a plant to return the following year, I look for those that have a zone of 5.  
There's good information here.

Finally, if it's a flowering plant you're looking at, the tag will tell you its bloom season. With annuals, you can rely on blooms the entire season. But with perennials, you'll want to read the label closely. Most (not all) perennials will only bloom for a couple months--it might be spring, early summer, mid summer, late summer, or fall. You can plan accordingly and buy different types of flowering perennials so that you can have staggered blooms. I often mix flowering perennials with annuals so that I'll always have something in bloom.  But keep in mind, flowers aren't everything. I've learned to appreciate interesting foliage, which can often be beautiful all on its own.

So read that label and give your plant the best possible chance to thrive.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Let's Review: Pots

Terracotta pots are beautiful but require more frequent watering.
I've always said that you can grow almost anything in a pot.  At various times over the years I've grown trees (a Japanese maple that I've had for eight years--maybe longer), shrubs, vegetables, perennials flowers, annuals, and herbs.  The pot you choose has to be large enough to accommodate its contents. For example, my Japanese maple is in a huge container, which is only problematic when I need to move it, or should I say, when my husband needs to move it for me.  

My garden has an array of containers--from terracotta pots (see photo) to wine crates to pots made of lightweight composite materials. You should consider several things including aesthetics, weight, and size. I prefer an eclectic mix of pots, which is why you'll see such a variety in my pictures. It's part aesthetic preference and part experiment.  

Pot feet allow for drainage and air circulation
But if you remember nothing else, remember this: no matter what container you use, you must have good drainage. You accomplish this three ways. First, be sure that your container has holes at the bottom. If it doesn't, don't buy it, or be prepared to drill the holes yourself. Depending on the type of material, you may not want to risk it. At the very least, use an appropriate drill bit. Second, use potting mix not garden soil. Potting mix is formulated to facilitate drainage and allow for root growth. Garden soil is too heavy to use in containers and your roots will suffocate. Finally, elevate your pots. I use pot feet (see photo). On a round pot, you can get by with three; on a square pot, use four.  

The right pot and proper drainage are the foundations of successful container gardening. There are other considerations of course, which I've talked about in the past and will review in future posts.  

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Sunday, May 10, 2015

In the beginning...

One carton of many filled with plants
This is the weekend that I typically do my big shopping for the garden. I bought more than I have in past years because we had a bitter winter, which killed some of the plants that typically survive the season.  Well, that's how it goes. I just scrubbed out those pots and readied them for something new and interesting.

In the beginning it's chaos
So here's what things look like in the beginning. It's sort of chaotic. I have plants everywhere, dirt everywhere, water everywhere, everything everywhere. And don't even ask me how many times I tripped over the water hose today.

Stay tuned. I'll continue to post on the weekends as I document my progress. Meanwhile, go buy some plants.