Container gardens are great for decks, porches, patios, or anywhere that you need a touch of color. Mark Van Buren, owner of Zehr’s on the Lake. offers four tips for keeping your containers looking beautiful all season long.
Tip #1: The “Hollywood pop and drop”
For quick color, try the technique Van Buren calls the “Hollywood pop and drop.”
Buy a large hanging basket and a large container. Instead of filling the container with soil, just invert a small pot and set it in the large container, as we did in the first photo. Set your hanging plant on top of the inverted pot. Take off the hanger.
Presto! You have an instant container garden like the one in the photo at right.
The hanging basket has already been growing for two months, Van Buren pointed out, so it’s full and lush. When you plant a container garden yourself, you have to be patient and wait for the flowers to fill in.
The pop-and-drop method is also convenient if you need to move the container garden from spot to spot. Without all that extra soil, the container is much easier to lift and carry.
Tip #2: Use the right soil
“People buy $90 worth of plants, then put them into poor soil,” Van Buren said. “They’re setting themselves up for failure.”
You want to use a good potting soil, he said. It should have bark, aggregate and some peat in it.
Don’t use too much peat, though. The peat will draw the water in, but when it’s dry, it almost repels the water. You want a potting soil that both absorbs and releases the water.
Van Buren picked up a handful of the mix he uses.
“You can feel the coconut and bark in it,” he said.
If you’re not sure what to buy, ask the staff at the garden center what they use and buy that, he recommended.
Tip #3: Add fertilizer
When people create their own container gardens, they usually forget to add fertilizer to the soil.
Van Buren suggests adding a little Osmocote, which is a general-use fertilizer for northern climates. Every time you water or it rains, the fertilizer will be released. Adding it once should be enough to last for eight to nine months.
You should use a dash or a heavy tablespoon per container.
“Add it like an Italian cook,” he said. “None of this needs to be overthought.”
Tip #4: Make it easy for the person caring for your containers while you’re on vacation
When you’re preparing to go away, move your container gardens to shadier spot so they won’t require as much water. (This is when you might wish you had lightweight “Hollywood pop and drop” containers.)
Then buy a saucer for your container and water from the bottom up. If the person caring for your plants sees that the container is full, he or she knows not to water that day. If the saucer is empty, all the person has to do is fill the saucer.