Articles From Container Gardening For Dummies, 2nd Edition

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36 results
36 results
How to Divide and Repot Perennials

Article / Updated 03-27-2017

Divide and repot perennials to alleviate crowded roots. Because perennials tend to grow larger — in some cases much larger — than annuals, you may find your plants outgrowing their pots. (A sure sign is roots that fill all available soil space or bulge out at the top. An even surer sign: roots bursting the sides of the container.) At times like these, you need to make some choices. You can repot them into larger containers, you can root-prune them and replant them in the same container, or you can divide them. Some perennials, like coral bells and hostas, spread by underground roots. In pots, they can eventually grow so crowded that they no longer look good or grow well. When your plants enlarge to this size, think about dividing the clump. The ideal time to divide a plant depends on the type of plant and your locale. In general, in regions with mild to moderate winters you can divide plants in early spring or fall. In regions with very cold winters, most plants are best divided in early spring. In regions with very hot summers, divide plants in fall. Exceptions to these guidelines exist, so if you’re unsure, do some research before digging in. To divide a perennial: Ease the plant from the pot. Wash off as much soil as possible — you need to be able to see the roots. Using a trowel, garden knife, or whatever tool seems to work for you, gently tease apart the root mass into two or more clumps. These clumps are called divisions. Be sure that each division has a healthy set of roots to support it. Repot each clump into a new pot using the bare-root potting procedure. You can also plant some or all the clumps in the ground if you have the space and the right conditions. Or, share or swap divisions with your friends and neighbors. The roots of some plants are such a tangled mass that it’s impossible to tease them apart. In these cases, use a sharp knife or, for large plants, a sharpened spade to slice the plant in half, from top to bottom, so that the two remaining sections contain both top growth (or where the top growth was if the plant is dormant) and roots. Replant as you would a regular potted plant.

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Container Gardening For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-27-2016

You can create beautiful container gardens with a little planning and some ongoing attention. It all starts with picking the right plants and arranging them in an attractive container. Then, after you’ve got things growing, you’ll want to keep the plants pest-free to keep them looking their best.

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How to Plant Bulbs in a Container

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Planting just one variety of bulbs per pot ensures that all the bulbs in the pot will bloom at the same time. Mixing varieties in a container, on the other hand, results in flowers coming at different times, which has much less impact. If you want different flower colors and bloom times, grow different varieties in separate containers. These steps describe the typical way to plant bulbs. Expect the results to be containers dense with flowers:

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How to Plant a Strawberry Pot

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Strawberry pots, also called strawberry jars or pocket planters, have holes cut into the sides as well as an open top. The pots come in a range of sizes, but most have between 8 and 15 pockets sized for small plants, including herbs and flowers. Alternating themes or repeating patterns work well if you don’t want a different plant in each slot.

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How to Plant Hanging Baskets

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Planting wire baskets isn't as easy as planting plastic hanging baskets. But whichever type of basket you are planting, begin by choosing the right type of soil. A successful soil mix for hanging baskets must be lightweight and able to retain moisture.

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Choosing the Right Container-Gardening Tools

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Having the right tools available when you’re growing plants in containers can make some of the chores easier. Most of the following items are available at garden centers or through mail-order suppliers. Hose-end bubbler: Screw this attachment to the end of the hose and use it to soften the flow of water so you don’t wash out soil. A metal hose-end extension allows you to water overhead baskets and containers that are normally beyond arm’s reach. Scrub brush: Use a brush to nudge soil, moss, and salt deposits off your containers. Hand truck: You need one of these if you want to move heavy containers indoors or if you do a lot of outdoor redecorating. Watering can: With a watering can, you can also apply liquid fertilizer as you water. Soil scoop (trowel): This tool comes in handy when filling containers with potting soil or when mixing small quantities of potting soil. (For larger quantities, use a shovel.) Mister: Indoor plants often need extra humidity. Apply moisture with a small hand sprayer.

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Ideas for Inspired Container Plantings

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Combining the right plants with the right container can make for a traffic-stopping display. Follow these guidelines for creating container plantings that suit your style: Choose a combination of tall plants (thrillers), shrubby plants (fillers), and trailing plants (spillers). Select plants with contrasting forms — tall and spiky, gently arching, soft and flowing. Choose plants based on the mood you want to set. Flowers in bright, hot colors like fuchsia, fire-engine red, and blazing orange will energize a planting. Cool colors like periwinkle blue and lilac set a calm, relaxed mood. Use various shades of a single color, like pastel pink to deep rose, to create a unified yet still interesting display. Create contrast between colors. Foliage plants with silvery and chartreuse leaves provide a perfect backdrop for brightly colored flowers. White and pale colors make dark plants pop and are luminous in the moonlight. Add height to your containers by growing vines on trellises. Use plant stands and hanging baskets to bring plants up to eye level. Add attractive edibles, such as purple basil and tricolor sage, to decorative containers.

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Knowing Which Garden Critters Are Good for Your Plants

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The plants in your container garden can benefit when you let certain insects and animals hang around your yard. Invite these beneficial creatures into your landscape to help you control pests: Lady beetles, green lacewings, tachinid flies: They feed on small, soft-bodied insect pests and their eggs. Plant a variety of flowers, especially umbrella-shaped ones like yarrow and dill. Dragonflies: They eat mosquitoes, aphids, and other insect pests. They thrive in wetlands, so add a small pond or leave a naturally marshy area in your landscape. Bees: Honeybees, bumblebees, and other species are important pollinators. Avoid spraying pesticides, especially during the day when bees are out foraging. Spiders: Most species are beneficial and help keep pests in check. Resist the urge to kill garden spiders when you see them. Frogs and toads: They eat slugs and other plant pests. Create moist hiding places, such as piles of rocks and old branches, and overturned clay pots. Bats: They eat countless mosquitoes, making your time in the garden more enjoyable. Put up a few bat boxes to invite them in. Lizards: They eat pest insects. Include some flat rocks that get morning sun so the reptiles can warm themselves in preparation for a day of insect hunting. Birds: Many songbirds eat pest insects and their eggs. Invite these feathered friends to your garden with houses, feeders, and birdbaths. Plant shrubs that produce berries. And yes, even snakes and wasps have a place in a healthy garden ecosystem.

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Controlling Pests in Eco-Friendly Ways

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

After investing time and money in your container gardens, the last thing you want to find is bugs or other pests munching on the plants in those containers. Here are some ecologically sound ways to prevent pests from feasting on your flowers and vegetables. Choose pest-resistant varieties that are adapted to your climate. Keep plants healthy by making sure they’re getting the right amount of sun, water, and fertilizer for optimal growth. Invite beneficial insects into your landscape to help control pests by planting a diversity of plants and minimizing pesticide use. Inspect plants frequently so you catch problems early. Identify the culprit before taking any control measures. Use barriers, like row covers, to prevent pests from reaching plants. Spray repellents to keep critters at bay, such as neem oil for Japanese beetles and predator urine for deer. Trap pests like slugs to reduce their populations. Hand-pick insect pests or wash them off with a blast of water. Choose least-toxic pesticides, preferably ones that target only the pest and don’t harm other organisms.

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How to Choose Bulbs for Containers

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

When choosing bulbs to plant in container gardens, planting just one bulb variety per pot ensures that all the bulbs in the pot will bloom at the same time. Mixing varieties in a container, on the other hand, results in flowers coming at different times, which has much less impact. If you want different flower colors and bloom times, grow different varieties in separate containers. Bulbs look fine in a wide variety of container shapes and styles. As a general rule, spring bulbs are planted in the ground at a depth three times their diameter, but that rule doesn’t have to apply to short-term container growing. Choose containers that allow at least 2 inches of soil beneath the bulbs. The traditional container in which to grow spring-blooming bulbs like hyacinths is a clay or plastic bulb pan, a shallow pot l0 inches or larger in diameter and only 5 or so inches deep. These pots don’t hold much soil, so they aren’t candidates for replanting with other flowers. You can buy bulbs at a local nursery or garden center or by mail order. The nursery bins and bags give you a chance to personally inspect the bulbs for quality — always important! But perhaps more than any other plant, durable and compact bulbs lend themselves to mail-order delivery. When you order from reputable suppliers, you can rest assured that you’ll receive high-quality bulbs. And you know that they’ve been stored in the proper conditions, usually a cool warehouse, rather than sitting out in an overheated store display. Plus, mail order generally offers the widest selection of varieties. Keep these tips in mind as you shop for bulbs: Buying earlier is better: When you pick out your bulbs as soon as they hit the nurseries or catalogs, you get a much better selection of varieties. And at this time, the bulbs aren’t picked over, with just the runts remaining. If you’re not yet ready to plant, keep your bulbs in a cool dark place, with good air circulation and temperatures ideally between 35 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t store bulbs and fruits together in an enclosed place. For example, if you store your bulbs in the refrigerator, don’t put them in the vegetable crisper alongside a bag of apples. Ripening fruits emit ethylene gas which can damage the bulbs. Bigger is better: The size of the bulb indicates the amount of food stored to provide energy for later regrowth. Bigger bulbs (graded number 1 or called topsize or topgrade) usually produce bigger flowers, more flowers, and taller, thicker stems than smaller bulbs, which are sometimes called landscape grade or field grade. Smaller bulbs at a good price may make sense if you plant them in the ground where they can develop over several years, but they aren’t a good choice for containers, where the bulbs usually can thrive only for one season. Plump is better: Follow the same rule for choosing a bulb as you do for choosing a good grapefruit: The bulb should feel heavy for its size. A bulb that feels light may have lost moisture. Firm is better: To what in the world does this rule not apply? You don’t want to buy rotting bulbs. Two noses are better than one: This rule applies primarily to daffodils and perhaps some Picasso paintings. Daffodil bulbs develop noses, or little bulbs attached to the main bulb, each of which can produce leaves and flowers. Try to buy big fat bulbs with two or three noses. For container-grown bulbs, you want a mix that’s well drained but that holds adequate moisture. Most commercial potting mixes work well. Because the bulb itself is a food storage structure, bulbs that grow only one season need little or no fertilizer. A soil mix that contains starter fertilizer is adequate, or you can mix in a small amount of bulb fertilizer at planting time.

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