Growing patio plants in containers

With some thought to selecting flowering plants, foliage plants and small fruit, almost any plant can be adapted to growing in a container or pot.

Plants on a deck, balconies, or around a patio can accomplish many designs to enhance the beauty of the area. With some thought to selecting flowering plants, foliage plants and small fruit, almost any plant can be adapted to growing in a container or pot.

Plant size is an important factor that contributes to the overall proportion, texture and color of the area. Large-leafed plants create a rainforest effect while small-leafed plants create a feeling of comfort and organization. Be careful because a collection of large potted plant can easily make a compact patio feel crowed. Use the plants to enhance the area and not to create a potting area with many plants or pots.

Before the gardener goes out and buys a clay pot, whiskey barrel or landscape timber, go on a treasure hunt through a variety of garden centers, hardware stores, import shops and antique shops. Consider selecting ceramic animals, all sizes of ceramic and clay pots, old wheelbarrow, wooden container, old bathtub or one of those special growing devises on the market.

The container should be able to hold a minimum of 3 1/2 gallons of soil and allow the water to flow out the bottom. That is about what would be used in a 12-inche pot. A cubical planter measuring 1 foot high and 1 foot wide holds 7 1/2 gallons of soil. The exception is some flowering annuals and foliage plants can be grown on a small scale in 4- and 8-inch pots.

Soil from the garden makes poor container soil. A good container mix combines organic materials with minerals. Many gardeners will use a “soilless” growing media or potting soil mixture because it contains the right nutrients for plant growth and enough air space to allow air and water movement. After the growing media is in the container, soak it thoroughly before planting.

Many stores already have arrangements made up. These are great to give the gardeners an idea on how to use the plants in their situation. They can be transplanted into another container or left in the one provided. Hanging baskets are great to hang around a patio, however they may need to be repotted later in the growing season.

The spacing for container grown plants may be planted closer than for in the garden. In addition, the gardener needs to think in terms of allotting enough soil for each plant. This may take some experience, because the gardener needs to know approximately how large is the root system of each plant and then allow for that in the container.

Watering container grown plants is especially important because of the limited volume of soil that may dry out faster than the soil in the ground. All containers normally need to be watered daily. They can be immersed in water if they are light enough or they can be watered by hand or with a drip irrigation system.

Water the container until the soil is saturated. Don’t water again until the soil is dry to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. To check, poke a finger into the soil and rub a bit of it between the fingers. If it is dry, then water. Moisture meters can be used for a more accurate measurement.

If the watering method calls for pouring the water into the container with a hose or pitcher, place a plate, bowl or something to catch the water after it flows out the drain hole. This will control the staining of the area around the container.

Give the plants a supplemental feeding of an organic or a water-soluble fertilizer every week or two. Because container cultivation requires more water than in a conventional garden, nutrients leeches out faster.

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