GardenGrrl's WunderBlog

Secrets About Container Gardens Revealed!

By: GardenGrrl, 8:32 AM GMT on April 22, 2008

Hello Gardeners. In the last blog we covered selecting containers and putting soil in them. Todays blog is going to cover the great eternal truths about container gardening, a primer on trimming root balls and very usefull information about moving monster heavy planters.

To become ready for the eternal truths of container plants and frankly to have more fun as a gardener, one has to be fully aware of their gardening style. There are two bookends that make up the gardening personality scale and most people are somewhere between the two.

First is the "Zen Gardener". This person seems to garden by instinct.. Happy and peacful in the garden, their head clears and they become one with their surroundings. They tend to just "do" and "be" in the garden without a whole lot of analytical thought or planning. Very spontaneous about buying and placing plants. Zen Gardeners have active imaginations and often daydream about being an elf or fairy skipping through a field of flowers.

Next is your "Scientific Gardener". This gardener is organized and informed. They quite often keep records on their plants and win ribbons at flower shows. These people use a tape measure when they garden and read ALL the labels. Scientific Gardeners do not day dream about anything. They make plans.

Now digest these revelations, embrace your gardening style and be ready for the truths.

#1. Plants in containers will need supplemental fertilizer.

#2. When potting soil drys out it repels water.

#3. Never leave a plant outside on a 39f day when it's temperature rating says to 40f. These ratings are almost always true.

#4. Everywhere has it's own micro climates. This means that most everything written about plant care is just a guide line. It is through experience that you learn what works in your micro climate and what does not.

My personal choice for fertilizing container plants is to use liquid fertilizer mixed in a watering can at half to quarter strength recommended on bottle. Less is better than too much fertilizer.

Fancy potting soil. Once it drys out it repels water. The top 1/4 inch of soil gets wet and the rest of the water channels down the sides of the pot fooling you into thinking you watered. Stick your finger a good inch or two into the pot and check if it is wet or dry. When potting soil gets dry like that you have to "knead" the water into the soil to get it to mix and re-wet.

Saucers under planters. These can be helpful on hot dry days as you can fill them with water for the plants to wick up. They can also cause root rot if the plant never gets full drainage. This happens a lot to indoor plants.

Trimming root balls. Generally this is only necessary for trees or shrubs in pots that are small compared to the size of the plant. I have a Benjamin Ficus in a two gallon pot. He gets his roots trimmed every three years or when he starts dropping leaves and looking sickly. The best "How -to" info on root trimming with pictures can be found in beginners how-to-bonsai books.

Moving Large Heavy Containers. With a few simple tools even a small person can move 100+ pound containers with ease. I call this the "Flintstone Method"
#1. You need at minimum two one inch diameter dowels or pipes. Four or more is ideal. These go under the container and act as rollers.
#2. A long handled shovel to use as a pry bar for lifting the pot so you can put the dowels under it.
#3. A shim. Something solid atleast 1/4 inch thick to slide under pot when you initially lift it with the shovel. This keeps it from falling and resealing itself to the ground when you adjust your shovel for a higher lift to get dowels underneath.
#4. Some card board or some of that dark brown 1/4" fiber board also called hardboard. This will be your "track" to move the container on if you are going over grass or soft surfaces.
So just pry the container up, brace with shim. Re-position shovel to lift another inch higher. Slide rollers under and you are ready to move. As you move forward a roller will leave the back end. Move it to the front, repeat as needed.

Pre Task Safety Planning.
You-hoo, Zen Gardeners pay attention here.
Think about where you fingers and feet are going to be while moving this big heavy object.
If a finger or toe gets caught can you get help?
Are there trip hazards in your path while you are moving this?
Any snakes or spiders likely to pop out?
Always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Also consider how your tools will affect the container. The sharp thin sides of the shovel could cut into the container. You may consider after getting the container high enough to place the shim, place a piece of flat metal across the top of the shovel to distribute the weight evenly. Card board works in a pinch too.

I included some how to Flintstone heavy things pictures. And also threw in some gratuitous pictures of my flowers and bird feeder.

For some great Organic Gardening info go to Dragonfly15's blog.

Have fun with your plants and Happy Gardening, from Gardengrrl.

Updated: 9:36 PM GMT on April 22, 2008


Container Gardens

By: GardenGrrl, 9:22 AM GMT on April 15, 2008

Hello Gardeners, I am finally going to do a blog on container gardening before the growing season is over.

What are Container Gardens? Anything growing in a pot, tub or vessel that can hold dirt and still provide drainage is qualified to be part of a container garden. Personally, I consider raised bed gardens to be really big containers, thus qualifying in this catagory.

Why Container Garden?
From a practical stand point if you live in an apartment and only have a balcony, containers are your best gardening option. If you live where the soil is poor, containers are a great work around solution. My soil is clay. On my ground gardens where I added amendments to the soil and some nice tight edging to keep bermuda grass out, when it rains very hard the clay saturates and will no longer soak up water. The amended soil becomes a soup bowl for days.

For people with disabilities, Container Gardening can bring the joy of growing things back within your reach.

If you can afford fancy pots or have access to things that would make neat planters, Container Garden groupings are a really neat idea to tie in with your landscaping plans.

What can I grow in a container?
Just about anything your heart desires if the container is big enough and gets the right amount of sunlight. I've grown herb gardens, tomatoes, roses, giant sunflowers, shrubs and even gourds up a trellis in containers.

How to do it.
First choose your containers. Get the largest containers you can. Smaller pots and window boxes dry out very quickly. Anywhere the temp is over 78f on a daily basis and has low humidity, small (less than 1 gallon) containers will require daily to three times daily watering.

One warning here; If you have a balcony think about weight. Several 15 gallon containers with water (around 120lbs a piece) and a couple people on your balcony could be too much weight.

A container/planter can be anything you can put drainage holes in and will hold dirt. Fancy pots from the garden center or large plastic storage containers with holes drilled in the bottom.

How to fill them.
Of course you fill them with dirt but theres a trick to it.
Most schools of thought say put something like an inch of small rocks/course gravel at the bottom of the pot for drainage. If you have some it's a good idea. If you don't want to buy extra rocks for drainage you can probably get away with not doing it. However, for pots that go on balconys it's a good idea just so all your dirt doesn't run out the bottom to the neighbors balcony. BUT, before you add rocks, gravel etc., put a piece of screen at the bottom of your planter. This holds everything in. You can buy a role of window screen cheap at any hardware store or Walmart. Cut it with a scissors to fit bottom of pot, add your one inch of rocks (two inches if really deep pot), now you are ready for dirt.
The Dirt.
Planters less than a foot deep are best filled with that high dollar fancy potting soil. Miracle Grow is a name that comes to mind, but any potting soil of similar look and feel is just fine.
Big Planters
For large planters, anything over 16 inches tall by 16 inches wide, you can fill the whole thing with high dollar potting soil if you like. For my large containers, which happen to be 20 gallon plastic storage tubs, I mix a bag of the cheapest top soil, not mulch, get actual soil to mix with the high dollar potting soil. The bottom half of the container is filled with the cheap bag of top soil. The upper half gets the fancy stuff.

Two reasons for this. One, the top soil is much heavier than potting soil and helps weigh the container down so if my large shrub or tomatoe plants catch a stiff wind it doesn't blow over easily. Second, it's cheaper. Also you can take out the potting soil from the top half of the pot and add fresh every year if you are inclined to do so. Once again some folks will say replace everything, scrub the container etc. Do what works best for you.

Now that you have your planters full of dirt, get out there and grow something!

For people with disabilities.
You can still garden, but you might have to have someone help with the initial set-up. If bending, walking, mobility is a problem, containers can be placed on sturdy blocks to a height you can work with.
If making platform for containers, use materials that won't rot. (Cinder blocks are good if braced right) Make sure container/platform will not fall over if pushed or pulled with the weight of an adult.
For wheelchairs and walkers have an area of three feet of smooth solid ground between containers or barriers for person in chair or walker to get through. Person should be able to reach all parts of container without leaning/reaching to point of instability.
If garden tools are needed, tying a string to them will help with retrieval if tool is dropped.

If you haven't been to other blogs that talk about gardening and are interested, check out Skyeponys blog. She puts some really good tips in there sometimes along with all the weather info. Dragonfly15 also is a good plant blog. If you know of any other good plant blogs let me know. Happy Gardening from Gardengrrl.

Updated: 9:34 AM GMT on April 15, 2008


Oh Hail!

By: GardenGrrl, 4:26 AM GMT on April 09, 2008

Can always tell it's gonna be a bad storm when the dog hides. First he was at my feet and suddenly jumped up and took cover behind the lazyboy. Poor thing. Then the hard rain came. Followed by the pounding and clanging of hail hitting the roof and vents. Still raining a bit. Will see what the car and yard look like in the morning.
Here's some not great pictures of hail in the grass and a few pieces that bounced into the porch.

4:00pm. I think the storm was hardest on my critters. The cockatoo Sydney, who usually pulls the blanket off his cage as soon as the grow lights snap on at 7:00am, still had the blanket in place and stayed in the dark all day.
Annie the elderly silent and dour cockatiel has been whisteling and singing, presumably to annoy Syd who has been trying to sleep all day.

Outdoor damage is blessedly minimal. Mainly leaves knocked off trees. Looked abit like an early autumn. Roof shingles looking a little streaky, but no vents or shingles to replace. The neighbors all look okay.

Just some noisy excitement last night and over 3 inches of rain in the rain gauge.

Thanks for checking in. Stay safe and dry, Gardengrrl

Updated: 9:21 PM GMT on April 09, 2008


Computer Help? Hardware...

By: GardenGrrl, 6:42 AM GMT on April 07, 2008

The "external drive port" does not seem to be working. You know the one where you plug SD cards into it and a screen should come up that says "how do you want to open this". I have an HP Pavillion a1430n. It acts like that part of the computer doesn't have power. Usually if you put a SD card in there a little green light comes on and then the prompt box comes on screen. Tried several cards and nothing. So far have tried can of air duster to clean it.

What a week. Big storm came through. It hailed enough to mark up my old plastic patio furniture and bend the plants over, but by late afternoon when I woke up to go back to work they were all standing up again. Yaay!

The hummingbirds have been zipping around. Have one female and two males that chase each other from the feeder if they show up at the same time.

Dang, but the red-wing black birds have found my feeders. Quite the flock, they empty it in no time leaving nothing for my little house finches and cardinals. Am wondering if it will help if I put up a sign pointing to Louisiana saying, "Nice marshland that way"...

Speaking of losing ones mind while shopping. A new plant nursery opened up. They were having a SALE! Imagine 24 pack flower flats for $5.99 and good flowers too!

A flat of red salvias, assorted verbena, alyseum, dusty miller, petunias, a couple flats of assorted marigolds and some shade begonias to boot. This will keep me busy the next few days. Oh the joy!

They fixed the street light by my yard. It's actually light enough to go plant stuff right now. Hmmmmm.

Updated: 4:30 AM GMT on April 08, 2008


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