By Lori Murray, Cameron County Master Gardener, Texas Superstar Specialist
Planting your container is simple, but if you don’t have a potting bench or good location for potting, it can make a mess. To avoid this, use a tarp on the ground where you plan to work. A tarp is a good investment because it can also be used as a receptacle when you weed or prune and can be dragged to the alley and dumped, then folded up and stored in a small amount of space. It also doesn’t rust like nearly all the carts or wagons I’ve tried! (Harbor Freight has a good selection.) When you have finished, you can carry the tarp off and empty it in a safe place. You might also want to have a cart or box to raise the new container to a comfortable working level (and save your back).
It’s important that the level of soil on the plants remains the same in the new pot as it was in the original pot. To begin, fill the clean container about halfway full. Ultimately you will want the soil to be within an inch or so of the rim, but first you need to determine what that midway level should be for the plants you are going to use.
One video made a great suggestion for planting the thriller and the filler plants in a big container: Immerse each pot that you will be adding to the planter in water for a couple minutes to get it thoroughly watered. Then remove all the plants from their original pots and place the empty pots in the new container. This way you will know if you have the correct depth of potting soil or if you need to add or remove soil. Then fill in around the empty pots with soil until the top of each pot is an inch beneath the top of the big container. You can really pack the soil in between pots without fear of the damage that you might do to a plant. Then loosen the roots of each plant and spread them so that they will grow out into the container.
If the roots were wound around the inside of the original pot, you can either trim them with shears or pull them gently apart from the root ball to encourage growth out away from the original form. Then remove the pots one at a time and replace each one with the watered plants themselves, adding a bit more soil if necessary. Finally, work the spiller plants into the filler plants, positioning any trailing sections to the outside and water the entire container thoroughly.
Another video suggestion was to toss a generous handful of seeds for a climber that would look good next season into the pot. This could give your container new life and a new look a month or two down the line.
SOME THINGS TO REMEMBER:
If you are using very large pots, consider a layer of pea gravel and a coffee filter in the bottom to keep the soil from washing out and to aid drainage. Also, you can keep very large pots from getting too heavy by using a layer of Styrofoam pieces or peanuts in the bottom of the pot. Mix moisture-retaining materials into the soil if it does not already contain them. Keep the soil level on the plant’s stem the same as it was in the original container. Press the soil firmly and securely around the root ball.
Planting closer together than the recommended spacing will usually create faster, fuller growth and the plants will mature and bloom sooner. Of course, they might also need to be moved to a larger container sooner, so calculate what you wish to achieve and when! If you are using a variety of plants in the same container, be sure not to plant low growing plants in the center where they will be covered and overpowered by larger growing plants on the perimeter.
Balance is important. Consider starting combination plantings with only two or three varieties until you have some experience with such options. Water the container immediately after planting. If the soil settles and exposes the roots, add a little more soil.
Each container of plants may have different watering needs during different seasons. Check the soil 3 to 4 inches deep before flooding the container. You can either check the soil with your finger, or you can invest in a moisture meter (purchased at a garden center or at Tractor Supply). Check containers daily until you get an idea of which container needs what and when. When you water, water thoroughly. Skimpy watering will cause your plants to have shallow roots, and the plants will develop poorly.
Container drip irrigation kits abound and are wonderful for efficient, easy watering of very large containers such as raised beds. They’re especially nice when you leave on a vacation or trip. These are available at some garden centers or online at numerous places.
Select fertilizers to suit the needs of your particular plants. Flowering plants will need a high phosphorus fertilizer such as a Super Bloom. Foliage plants will need a more balanced fertilizer or one with higher nitrogen. Water soluble fertilizers help you avoid the possibility of burning that granular fertilizers tend to produce when used in containers, but granular fertilizers can work equally well if you keep in mind the importance of watering thoroughly. Fertilize vegetables with a good garden fertilizer formulated for vegetables and tomatoes. Then sit back and watch the fruits of your labor materialize.
Author’s Personal Experience
Country Gardens Container Gardening Special Interest Publications, Meredith National Media Group, Des Moines, Iowa.
pinterest – container gardens
Tauton’s Container Gardening Idea Book
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Equipped with work gloves and a small shovel, Jemila Rosenthal puts her hair in a ponytail and walks over to the garden. In a few minutes, she is deep in the soil and pulling out large stalks of celery.
The scorching summer heat and pesky bugs aren’t enough to stop her from cultivating her plants because for Jemila and other community members, the gardening is more than a hobby.
“I went through a period where I had a really hard time being around people,” said Rosenthal, who served in the Army for three years. “It was not my natural state of being, I needed to get out.”
She said she struggled to find a group of people she could trust and feel comfortable with. That was until she found Gardening for Good.
Located on Madison’s North Side, Gardening for Good is a nonprofit shared gardening experience for local veterans. The program’s purpose is to create a space for veterans and their families to garden and grow in their own neighborhood.
Three years since its creation, the program is an easygoing welcoming community of diverse people and experiences.
“The gardening has been really relaxing and helpful for me,” Rosenthal said. “I really wanted to be around people gardening, especially other vets, and this is perfect.”
Every Monday morning, the group of veterans and their families come together to look after the four 20-by-40-foot plots growing a multitude of vegetables, including onions, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, leeks, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Members help each other plant, grow and harvest the crops, sharing casual conversation and refreshments for their potluck-style lunches.
The gardening has been a valuable outlet for recovering veterans, said Matthew Heldman, peer specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs who served in the Air Force for four years.
“It’s very therapeutic to be out here in the soil and give back to the vets,” Heldman said. “As a veteran, this is something I want other veterans to know about.”
Heldman has worked with the VA to introduce Gardening for Good to other veterans in the Madison area.
“The community made the program, and I’m just happy to be here,” he said.
The emphasis on community has been there since the beginning, said Marge Pitts, who founded Gardening for Good in 2016 with a few other community members. Her goal was to create a small gardening club for her veteran friends, but the program grew to roughly 10 members.
“A community garden is somewhere people can get natural therapy, and Gardening for Good is exactly what I had in mind, exactly why I gave so much of my time to it,” said Pitts, who served on the Troy Gardens’ board of directors for 27 years before creating the program.
“This is my vision,” Pitts said. “This is our vision.”
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Don’t forget, Winterville will hold its annual watermelon festival Aug. 22–25th!
Everyone should have a garden. Sadly, my gardener status was lowered to “grunt labor only” as a result of a small gardening mistake I made many years ago. I said I was sorry and promised her it would never happen again. Hey, doesn’t the Good Book say something about forgiving your husband 70 times 7?
My wife has a green thumb and takes pride in her garden. I have pictures in the family photo album of her holding armloads of luscious vegetables.
Since we have been married (38 years), we have always had a garden.
However, in all those years, she has never, and I mean never, successfully grown a watermelon.
Every year, I watch her sweat and toil, and every year the results are the same — a little nothing! She tried so hard, and the one and only watermelon had only grown about the size of a dinky softball.
Back then, she was a big fan of a show called “The Victory Garden.” This show was hosted by a guy who could grow anything. He shared his ingredients of a special mixture of fertilizer guaranteed to make a watermelon grow. Cindy immediately went out and purchased all the ingredients. She applied this awful smelling stuff to Dinky the watermelon, after which she declared this was the “Year of the Melon!” She was certain this special concoction would help Dinky grow. I knew better, but who was I to spit seeds in her face?
Several weeks later, I was out late, due to a planning session at the chamber of commerce. On my way home, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some pork rinds. As I was walking toward checkout, I noticed along the floor 10 to 20 watermelons. One caught my eye. It was a behemoth, a freak of nature! I knelt and thumped that bad boy. “Bubba,” as I called him, was acoustically perfect, ripe and ready. He weighed 40 pounds if he weighed an ounce. I noticed about 5 inches of green stem with leaves still attached. In my mind’s eye I saw poor little Dinky back home in the garden. I thought, why not? No, I couldn’t, because that would be so bad, and she would never forgive me.
On the other hand, I thought, it would help her feel complete as a gardener. I mean thus far; no homegrown watermelon had ever graced our picnic table.
I strained as I picked up this green freak of nature and hauled him up to the counter. The checkout clerk rang it up and placed a bright, flame red “Sold” sticker on its pale underside. I hefted Bubba into the trunk of my car and headed for home. I was feeling guilty about what I was about to do, but shook it off, in favor of the greater good.
To pull off what happened next required stealth, speed and luck. I eased the car into neutral and drifted with the lights out into our driveway. I silently popped open the trunk. It took all my strength to get Bubba out.
Beads of sweat trickled down my forehead as I moved like a navy seal toward the garden; with pen light firmly clinched between my teeth. I felt alive and knew I was doing a good thing.
I reached the garden and found Dinky, yanked him off the vine and chucked him down over the hill. Slowly, I eased Bubba into Dinky’s place and gingerly placed the vine exactly where Dinky once was. “I am doing a good thing I whispered to myself. You are a good husband…”
A week went by and due to rain, Cindy had not gone into the garden. Finally, she did, and there followed a loud “Yee Haw!” that reverberated across the neighborhood. She came running into the house and said, “I did it! I did it!” “Did what babe?” I asked.
“I finally grew a big watermelon … come and look, you won’t believe it, honey. I knew that fertilizer would work!” she said.
It was all coming together, just as I had planned. She leapt into the garden and held Bubba tight like the Prodigal Son. I said,” I am proud of you honey, I knew you could do it!”
Cindy decided to pluck him up and bring him into the house for all to see. Bubba was heavy and the only thing she could do was roll him over. There to my horror I saw my one small gardening mistake. I forgot to take the bright flame red “Sold” sticker off Bubba’s pale underside. “Lord, have mercy on me,” I thought, “I am a dead man!”
Thank goodness, my sweetheart has a great sense of humor. We had a good long laugh. So today, I am just a grunt who waters and weeds in the garden under the supervision of any child in the house.
See you at the Winterville Watermelon festival!
Robin L. Quillon is publisher of The Daily Reflector.
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