Miss Kirby's KommonSenseTips for
Container gardening can be for everything, from food (vegetables and herbs), to wonderfully scented and colorful flowers, to greenery to admire and enjoy. Successful container gardening begins with a good healthy plant, high quality soil and the proper container.
Select a plant that will grow in the location you want. Most plants will do just fine in lightly broken shade and/or with 3 to 4 hours of sun. Eastern sun is best, but we work with what we have.
Decide between a plastic or clay container. Clay is porous, so you will have to water more frequently, but it allows for oxygen exchange to the root system. Yes, roots take in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. If you tend to under-water, use plastic which doesn’t dry out as quickly. Whichever, always have drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Most plants don’t mind being in either plastic or clay, but some demand clay.
Always use a light porous potting soil, never topsoil. Soil must be re-hydrated so that there are no dry spots. Leave the soil in the bag it came in, place water in the bag, mix well and let sit for a half hour before potting. Put the wet soil into your new pot to within 3" of the top of the new container. Dig a hole that allows 3/4 of the plant's root ball to go into the soil. Put the plant, pot and all, in this hole and press to compact the soil underneath. Remove the plant from the grow pot and place it in the hole in the larger pot. Put enough water to remove all air pockets, confirm that the top of the plant root system will be above the soil level, allowing room for mulch. Do not assume that the plant you purchased is at the correct level in the pot. Many plants sink as they grow and many nurseries plant too deep; always find the top of the root system. If you are going to err in your planting depth, err shallow (roots above the soil level); you can always add mulch or more soil.
Feed the plant in its new home so it can develop a good strong root system that will allow it to absorb nutrients and water. Potassium, the middle element listed on fertilizer labels, is for developing roots, stems, fruits and flowers, so choose a fertilizer with a high middle number. Use our Root Ball Special (RBS) 4-24-4 granular or Dyna-Gro 3-12-6 liquid. for flowers, add a little Osmocote in the bottom of the hole, it’s like catnip to cats. See Miss Kirby’s fertilizer guide for more tips.
Now it’s time for clothes. Top-dress with shredded Cypress mulch to the top of the root system. You can use egg shells, lava rock, pine bark or sphagnum moss, but our choice is Cypress mulch as it repels bugs and ants. Top-dressed soil dries out more evenly and will be much easier to re-hydrate.
Now comes the final watering in. Use an open-ended hose with very little pressure and thoroughly soak everything, then pat the mulch to "set it." Check to make sure that the mulch is level with the top of your plant's root system and does not touch the stem.
If you’ve chosen to fertilize with liquid feed, now is the time. We recommend Dyna-Gro 3-12-6 as it has a higher middle number to generate a good root system. You can feed with the liquid even if you’ve already applied granular fertilizer. The liquid doesn’t last long but is immediately available to the plant (just like intravenous feedings in the hospital).