"When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before anyone is awake, I go for the time being into perfect happiness. In this hour divinely fresh and still, the fair face of every flower salutes me with a silent joy. . . . All the cares, perplexities, and griefs of existence, all the burdens of life slip from my shoulders and leave me with the heart of a little child that asks nothing beyond the present moment of innocent bliss."
~ Celia Thaxter, 1835-1894, New England poet and author of An Island Garden
However there are some things to keep in mind if your garden is in pots.
• Water – pots can dry out faster than the ground, so you may be watering more often. You’ll need to dig down into the root area to see if the pot needs watering. Just looking at or touching the soil surface, which dries fastest, is not indicative of what the moisture level is at the roots. There are moisture meter probes available. I haven’t had the greatest success with them but they may be just the thing for you. I just worm my finger down into the soil an inch or two to test for moisture. Hanging pots or moss lined wire pots may need to be watered daily, especially if they are in windy or warm sunny places.
• Good drainage is life or death to potted plants. Roots need oxygen. Oxygen increases as soil dries out and creates air pockets. In the case of most plants if the soil never dries out, even just a little bit, the roots will drown and rot. I do not recommend keeping saucers under pots outside. The saucer will hold water which will wick back up keeping the soil too wet. Remove all saucers and if necessary add ‘pot feet’ under your pots. Pot feet lift the pot up off the ground so water will flow freely out. Depending on the surface your pots are on you may or may not need them. They come in many styles, shapes and sizes. You can buy specialty feet or just use a few bricks or flat stones. Rolling trays allow you to move your pots but if they are solid like a saucer, drill holes in them so you won’t have any sitting water. I find covering the hole with a small square of window screen material before you add the soil works better than stones or pottery chards which can shift and plug up the hole.
• Potting soil – Since I am an organic gardener I buy only potting soils and compost from organic sources. Organic soil companies are tested regularly so you can be sure you are not putting your plants into soil with petrochemicals that will leach out into your surrounding environs or taint your pot of veggies. I do not recommend any bagged soil or compost that has fertilizers added. You don’t know what they are using and the term ‘organic’ is being tossed around too freely and deceptively in the bagged soil industry. Buy your own organic fertilizers from reputable sources and add it yourself depending on the specific needs of the plant(s) in you pot. Potting soil has a neutral ph so if you have a pot for acid loving plants like blueberries, you’ll want to add some spent coffee grounds to raise the acidity level of the soil, and you’ll fertilize with an acid loving plant fertilizer.
• Fertilizer - There is no such thing as one fertilizer fits all. Depending on what you are growing, you’ll want an organic fertilizer that will boost flower and fruiting production, another to boost nitrogen for leaf production. Pots may need fertilizer added more frequently than garden beds because the available nutrients get pulled into the roots or flushed away with watering. Organic fertilizers break down more slowly than chemical fertilizers so you’ll be using a safer ingredient and fertilizing less often. Once in early spring and once in summer are enough for dry organic fertilizers, but synthetics may need to be added monthly or in 6 week intervals.
• The pots themselves – I prefer terracotta or glazed pots. I just like the look of them, but they are really heavy when filled, so they stay where they are. Terracotta can chip and crack. Every winter my terracotta pots show a bit more freeze damage. Some glazed terracotta is marketed as frost proof and will last longer with little or no damage depending on how fierce your winters are. If you need to move your pots, plastic may be perfect for you. Plastic is lighter and easier to move but deteriorates from the sun and becomes brittle over time. If your potted garden has perennials that you want to survive cold winters you’ll need to move them to protected areas. Pots do not provide the insulation from freezing to the root zone like ground soils.
For the sake of keeping this post from being pages and pages long I’ve not elaborated too much on several points. If I’ve left you with unanswered questions, please drop me a line in comments so we can chat more. Or take your questions to your local nursery where they will have pot feet and fertilizers and what you need to have an awesome potted garden.
May your garden be one of many sanctuaries of rest for you as mine is for me.
In Bloom In My Garden Today: sadly nothing to report