Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Inland Northwest, High Desert
May, 2004
Regional Report

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Old nursery pots line the bottom of this whiskey barrel so I can use less potting soil and get better drainage and a lighter container.

Give Your Large Containers a Boost

Large containers make a grand statement. They look lush, lavish, and expensive. Of course, we who put our own together can do it for the price of a few bedding plants and the container itself. And a lot of potting soil.

Take the Load Off
Cut down on the amount of potting soil you use while slashing the weight of large containers. I arrange old nursery pots in a layer -- or two or three, depending on the depth of the container -- upside-down in the bottom. They take up a lot of space that would ordinarily be filled with heavy soil, which doesn't drain all that well when it's packed in so deeply. I measure the depth of the plant pots I'm going to use in this year's arrangement, add a few inches for root growth, and then fill the remaining depth with the old pots. Then I top them with potting soil and plant.

You want the soil level of your plants to top out about an inch lower than the edge of your container. Otherwise, water is more likely to run over the edges than soak into the roots, where it is needed.

Pack 'em in
Read the little plastic tags that come with your bedding plants. Determine whether they like sun or shade. Note how tall they get. Ignore the spacing recommendation. When we put a container together, grower's spacing recommendations go out the window. In our short growing season, we'd never get the full, lush look we want in our containers if we spaced plants even half as far apart as they would be in the garden.

Make sure you pre-soak each rootball, then put your plants in shoulder-to-shoulder. The only downside to that is the increased competition. This means you'll have more plants vying for food and water. Eliminate the worry by using a water-soluble fertilizer every time you water.

And water thoroughly. Apply water slowly, until you see excess running out the bottom of the container. Only then will you know everybody's had a drink.

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