Tips for preparing container gardening

Some potted flowers can beautify a balcony, patio or deck with colourful blooms for the whole year. But if you live in a region with a cold winter, most plants need to be taken indoors and into containers.

Tips for preparing container gardening

Plants will grow in anything that will hold dirt. Many flowers can feel right at home in baskets, boxes or half a small wine cask. But you may need to make a few preparations to keep your plants happy.

The selection

  • Choose containers made from fired clay; they're permeable to water and air.
  • Prevent the similar but much flimsier plastic pots from falling over in a strong wind by dropping a few heavy rocks in the bottom before adding potting soil.
  • Use plastic pots to line metal and wood containers and prevent rust or rot. Alternatively, line the containers with plastic or aluminum foil.

Preparing the containers

  • Thoroughly clean all containers, including new ones, and completely rinse off any residue.
  • Scrub off the unattractive white lime deposits on the outside of clay pots with vinegar and water, and feed plants with water that has aerated for 24 hours to prevent the deposits from returning.
  • Use a hammer to carefully knock a drain hole in the centre of the bottom of a clay pot that doesn't already have drainage holes, or drill several small holes in the bottom.
  • Keep dirt and nutrients from being washed away while watering by covering small drainage holes with a seashell or bottle cap. Try placing a coffee filter over larger drainage holes; it allows the water out, but keeps the dirt in.
  • In large tubs, prevent waterlogging of the roots by filling the pot to about a quarter full with coarse gravel before adding the potting soil.
  • Avoid inexpensive potting soil. It clumps together during watering and dries out quickly on hot days. The result: it becomes rock-hard, making it difficult for water to reach the roots, and your plant withers.
  • Ensure that the area where planters are kept has good water runoff; if necessary, place the containers on large stones or logs.
  • Lift pots up to protect the roots on cold nights, when the chill from the ground could do some serious damage.
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