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Spring Planting Tips for Container Gardens

A new gardening season has arrived and you’re keen to see your container garden in bloom. Before you rush ahead with all the great plant combinations and arrangements you have dreamed up over the winter, be sure to take some basic, yet important, steps to get your container garden off to a great start.

Planting new plants and having them grow successfully in outdoor garden planters is not difficult, nor is it as complicated as you might think.

Follow these container planting steps:

  • clean outdoor planters and pots
  • add a slow-release fertilizer to fresh potting soil
  • water potting soil thoroughly before planting
  • lay out planting arrangement on top of soil first
  • place healthy container plants at proper depth in potting soil
  • carefully pack potting soil and water lightly

Container Gardening Starts with Spring Cleaning

spring planting tipsOne of the most overlooked basics to getting your container gardens off to a good start each spring is a good cleaning of any previously used planters. I would even advise a good scrub of all new planters just to make sure no foreign or toxic substances, like herbicide, have landed in the pot. There’s nothing worse that planting an exciting new collection of plants, only to watch them mysteriously wither away in front of your eyes. Of course, it’s not hard to understand why you would want to clean used planters—you want to make sure no nasty pests, molds or mildew have taken up residence either in last year’s soil or perhaps during winter storage.

Whenever possible I would also recommend always re-potting perennials in planters each year. Again, you want to ensure your pot isn’t harboring any problems and you should be checking the health and size status of the plant’s root system each year too. Going back into fresh, nutrient-rich soil will keep your perennials healthy for much longer.

Give your plants a good start with a nice clean pot, and soil, and you’ll be rewarded with healthier plants.

Feed Your New Plants

Container plants are need nutrients regularly throughout the season. To give them a good healthy boost as the start to grow, add a slow release fertilizer in the a solid form to all of your plants. Mix thoroughly through the potting soil and as the season progresses, this fertilizer will continuously dissolve into the soil to feed the root system. You will then add additional fertilizer depending on each plant’s requirements. Hanging planters are especially nutrient-hungry as each watering tends to wash nutrients through the soil. An early supply of nutrients will help your plants establish a strong root system, which will in turn, help them through the hot and dry periods of summer.

When you have mixed the slow-release fertilizer through the potting soil, give it a good watering to make sure the soil has no dry spots and to ensure roots get an immediate supply of moisture when first planted. Potting soils that contain a lot of peat or vermiculite must be thoroughly watered to ensure all of the material is wet. Dry soil or peat will draw moisture plant roots and severely stress the young plant. Err on the side of over-watering rather than under-watering when planting your spring containers.

Experiment with Plant Arrangement for Containers

planting a spring container gardenDon’t be in a big rush to get your plants into the contianer soil—take the time to pre-arrange new plants, still in their greenhouse pots, before you commit them to your container arrangement. Visualize the plants as they grow and flower. Arrange by height depending on the location of the planter, tallest at back to lowest at front for planters against a wall or tallest in center to lowest or trailing around the edge for planters away from a wall.

If you are planting multiple containers, do this with all of your outdoor planters and arrange them to see how they all work together.

Testing your layout will let you see how leaf colors and textures work together and will help identify the optimum number of plants for the effect you want. It’s well worth the time to take this step to avoid awkward-looking arrangements that need re-planting. The least amount of handling a young plant receives in the planting process results in less stress to the plant.

Common Mistake in Container Design

One of the most common mistakes made when planting container gardens is not ensuring the plants are planted deeply enough. For plants that grow tall, this is a disaster in the making, as the plant will ultimately topple when it reaches a height that does not have enough support. For some plants, the height is not the issue, but the heat of the soil when the roots are not deep enough where the soil is cooler. Keep in mind that the potting soil moves and compacts with watering and as root grow, so it is very important to ensure the root system retains plenty of soil around it.

Give the Plants a Firm Foundation

Once you have made sure the roots are planted at the proper depth for the plant, be sure to fill the hole completely and packed firmly around the plant stem. It is a good idea with most plants to build the soil up around the stem slightly to create a low mound if possible. Your soil has been thoroughly pre-moistened, so now all you have to do is apply a light watering and with some plants it also helps to spray a light spritz of water to refresh the leaves.

Follow these steps for spring planting and your container garden will be off to a great start.

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