Planting a Garden Container – Soil, Drainage and How to Pot a Plant Container

When planting a garden container, your first thoughts should be about cleaning and sanitizing the pot. Many of you may think, “Why? I’m just going to fill this container with dirt.” Number one, for aesthetic reasons alone, you want your pot to be clean and attractive.
The second reason involves insects and diseases. If your pots have been used before, many infestations can carry over to another plant. They may also survive through the winter season as many of these insects and diseases can live through frost and cold. In fact, a good habit to adopt is to wash and disinfect pots at the end of the growing season to stop these problems from moving over into the next season.

Planting a garden container can be confusing if you are a new gardener. So many choices! What size container should I use? What kind of soil? How many plants and what variety should I look at? All these questions and more will be dealt with on this site. If you’re new to container garden, start with the basics of planting a garden container as described below. You’ll find these techniques easy to master and then be ready to go on with more inventive plantings.

When choosing a garden container for a single plant, the new container should be one size up from the pot the plant it is now living in. If your plant is now in a 3″ pot, move up to a 4″ pot. If it’s in a 12″ pot, the next size would be a 14″ pot.

Prepare for Soil Drainage When Planting a Garden Container

Once you have cleaned and disinfected your container, the next thing to consider is drainage. The traditional system of covering the pot drainage holes with stones or pot shards to aid in drainage and keep the soil from coming out from the holes is now being questioned in some gardening circles.

Covering the pot drainage holes with stones or pot shards will only allow that much less soil to be available for the plant’s root system. A better method to keep soil from falling out is too use a sheet of steel mesh or a coffee filter to cover the hole. If you discover you need to increase or improve drainage, insert a wick into the pot and allow it to extend out several inches below the bottom of the pot. This will give your plants much more soil to grow in as well as allow more air to be available to the root system of the plant. Once drainage is taken care of, it’s time to fill the container with potting mix and plant your plants.

How to Pot up a New Plant When Planting a Garden Container

Before planting a new plant, condition it by dipping the plant in it’s pot into a bucket of tepid water. Leave the entire plant pot submerged below water level for a minute or so until all the air bubbles are released from the potting mix and the soil is thoroughly moist. Using this method will insure the roots are moist and help it adapt to it’s new home. It will also make removing the plant from the pot easier when you transplant it.

If you are using a terra cotta clay pot, it helps to soak it in water for 10-15 minutes before planting. Since terra cotta is porous, this will insure that the pot does not soak up all the valuable water you give the soil when you transplant the plant.

Fill the pot 3/4 full of soil. Remove the new plant from it’s original pot. Press this original pot into the potting mix to get the shape of the original plant and it’s roots. This will insure the plant has the correct space that the plant needs for it’s new home.

If the container is large, it is best to fill it layer by layer with soil and firm it gently with your finger tips. This will help avoid compacting the soil, which would inhibit drainage.

Add Water Storing Crystals to the soil mix. These crystals absorb water and release it as the soil dries. Using these crystals will cut down on your watering time and help keep your plants evenly moist at all times.

Tips for Selecting Plants

When selecting your plants for your container, choose plants with healthy foliage and a good strong root system. Look for plants that are compact and symmetrical. Avoid plants with sparse stems, ragged foliage and densely packed roots.

If you are going to take the time to plant and nurture a container garden, don’t doom yourself to failure by buying plants that are obviously rejects and the end of the season sale items past their prime.

Don’t pull plants from their containers. Hold the container upside down and tap it against the ledge. Hold the rootball firmly with the plant stem between your fingers. Loosen the tightly packed soil and root ball, and holding the plant firmly, lower it into the new container. Firm new soil around the sides of the ball, filling it in and building up the soil until it reaches the same level as the soil around the plant.

Always set plants in the container so that the top of the plant is at the same height as it was in the original container-no higher-no lower.

Water the plant immediately after planting. Check the plant after 15-20 minutes. If you have a saucer under the plant, remove any water that is in it to prevent root rot. It is advisable to use a mulch of bark chunks, marble chips, or even a ground cover such as alyssum or ground phlox over the soil of a large container. This will not only dress up the container and slow down evaporation, but it will also keep the planting soil from being disturbed when you water

Set your container in a sheltered area for a day or two to allow the plants to acclimate to their new home. After a few days, it is safe to move the container into an open area and direct sunlight.

Tips for Planting Various Types of Garden Containers

Below is a listing of various containers and some tips and ideas for each type of container.

Tips for Planting a Window Box
How to Plant a Hanging Basket
How to Plant a Strawberry Jar and maintain even moisture.
How to Plant a Water Garden Container
How to Plant a Water Garden Container-Part Two
How to Plant a Water Garden Container-Part Three

Planting basic garden containers is not a difficult project at all. In fact, it is very pleasurable and satisfying. Once you’ve assembled one or two containers, you might find it’s like eating chocolates; one is not enough!

So it’s addictive. Big deal. You’ve discovered a new hobby the keeps you outdoors, visiting garden centers and gobbling up all the info you can on container gardening. How great is that?

Protect Your Precious Plants with Water Absorbing Crystals

Reduce watering chores and ensure plants get the water they need, when they need it.
Protect valuable landscape plants the way that pros do.
Also highly effective for container-grown plants.
Works for five years, then breaks down into fertilizer, not salt.

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