Great Weather For Gardening!

What a difference a year or two makes!  In recent years at this time, we had already experienced triple digit heat several times and had been watering regularly to beat a punishing drought.  This year we have yet to reach 100 degrees and have been blessed with regular refreshing and thirst quenching rains that have dramatically reduced how much time we have had to spend watering to grow and sustain our trees, shrubs, gardens and lawns. Normally we would slow down on planting at this time of the year and focus on mulching, watering and trying to support or sustain the crops we have already planted.  With the extra moisture in our top and sub soils and the milder conditions this year you can still experience great success planting container grown trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials and even warm season vegetables as long as you will be faithful and dependable in watering when needed between our natural rains.

This is prime container gardening season as many folks are spending more time outside on the patio, the front porch or in their back yards.  You may be entertaining guests and want to dress up your apartment, condo or home with the extra color and excitement of live plants.  Container gardens give you two opportunities to make a design statement.  One is with the actual container you select.  It can be anything from a traditional black nursery container to a decorative terra cotta or other color plastic or foam pot.  It can be a whisky barrel, an old wash tub, a wheelbarrow or other imaginative container that can hold soil.  The big issues that affect container gardening success are the size of the container and how much soil it can hold, drainage holes for water to escape form the container and the quality of soil used in the container.  Also the obvious decision of picking appropriate plants for the size containers and location where you plan to set the containers.  The larger the container soil volume the easier it is to manage plant watering and gives you better chances for success.  The smaller the container, the more dependent the plants will be on you to take care of them because they will dry out more often and need more attention.  Outside containers should have drainage holes so that excess water can drain freely from the container.  If you don’t want it draining out on a covered porch or other special area use a saucer to catch the drain water from the container.  A container without drainage will have much greater disease or fungus problems, possibly even rotting out plants that need good drainage and the soil structure will break down and not perform well in standing water.  Most plants need a good well drained soil with a good water and oxygen relationship.  Soil selection is an important part of container gardening success.  Lighter weight, well drained soilless potting mixes usually perform best in container gardens.  They do better than loam, clay or sandy top soil or heavy soil mixes.  Roots will grow and sustain best in a good well balanced mix of sphagnum peat moss, composted pine bark, vermiculite and perlite.  There are many good commercial grower mixes and some similar “grower style” consumer soil mixes available at your local grower or garden center.

You have lots of room to show your imagination or design flair when selecting plants for container gardens.  They can be a practical way to grow your own vegetables with pots of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs or strawberries.  Most decorative containers are either a single ornamental plant like a hibiscus, oleander or palm or a combination planter with a tall plant at the center and medium or short or even cascading plants around the edge.  Visit with your local garden center or grower to select the best plants for your location, whether sunny or in the shade, over concrete that will reflect extra heat or under the porch roof that will be more protected.

Enjoy this less stressful gardening weather and have fun planting those gardens and container gardens that you have been dreaming about.

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