WARSAW — Potted plants and patio gardening, for me, has required a little more care and attention than my vegetable garden and landscaping.
Plants growing in pots, baskets or buckets require more attention because of the limited resources of their pot. They need more water quickly, and more water means more food. They have to be pruned more frequently so as to not outgrow their pots.
With a little extra TLC, you can have beautiful herbs, vegetables, flowering baskets and more outdoors from spring through fall.
When selecting plants for a container or patio garden, be mindful of the location of the container and the size of the plant. Tomatoes make great patio garden staples, but they are large and need a big pot to accommodate their roots.
Hanging baskets on the porch may be much more shaded than the rest of your yard, which makes it a nice way to incorporate shade plants like coleus and impatiens in an otherwise sunny landscape. Just as you would with a plant in your landscape, identify how much direct sunlight your porch or patio receives so you can select a plant that will thrive where it’s placed.
Almost anything can be repurposed as a planter, but be sure there is drainage so the plants’ roots don’t rot. Look for porous materials like plastic or resin, as they won’t absorb water and will keep your plants from drying out. Make sure your pot is the right size, neither too big nor too small. Use the mature size of the plant to determine an appropriate pot size.
If your patio is uncovered, a rainy year like this one means you probably don’t need to water much. Covered porches and patios mean your plants are sheltered from the rain. Your small pots may need watered both morning and evening, and your large pots will want one big drink early in the day.
Water directly into the soil to prevent mildew and mold. Keep the water coming until it runs out the bottom drainage holes. If you have a dish or saucer under your pot, empty the standing water out to prevent root rot.
Soil in pots quickly depletes of nutrients as the water flushes them out. Feed your potted plants often, preferably using a liquid or water-soluble fertilizer, every couple of weeks.
Try a 20-20-20 or a 10-8-7 fertilizer for your potted plants. If you decide to use a dry fertilizer, be sure to incorporate it with plenty of water to avoid burning the plant, and also repot the plant or flush the soil with water if you see a white crust building up on the soil’s surface.
Remember to pinch off any dead blossoms. Keep your tomato plants free of suckers. Repot, prune or divide your plant if it begins to outgrow its container, or if you see roots beginning to grow out of the bottom of your planter.
These tips should keep your patio blooms looking lovely all season!
Amanda Zambrano is the director of advancement at Grace Village Retirement Community. She is a master gardener intern, just learning the ins and outs of successful gardening.
Along with her master gardener volunteering, Amanda serves on the board of directors for the Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts, the Symphony of the Lakes committee and a Kosciusko County Community Foundation scholarship committee. She plays flute for the Symphony of the Lakes and enjoys hand-quilting, baking and reading. She is also an occasional blogger. Amanda lives in Warsaw with her husband Dan and her son Alexander.