These days, patios, porches and decks become festooned with beautiful container gardens. Gorgeous hanging baskets flowing with petunias, ceramic planters packed with sunny daisies and sturdy wine barrels brimming with strawberries all herald summer’s grand entrance. If you potted up your container plantings this spring chance are good that by now the gardens are filled with vibrant color and lush foliage. The trick is to keep them fresh and full until autumn. It takes a bit of planning. Here are some tips: WATER: It is a no brainer, of course, but some underestimate the watering needs of fully grown container gardens. But the time summer arrives a container is almost filled with root mass. Inland, hot areas may need water every day to keep things wet. On the coast, the trap is fog. Several foggy days in a row, coupled with a sudden burst of sunshine or wind, makes a container planting suddenly wilt. ADVERTISING This kind of water stress, if played out more than once, wears out plants. They lose their vitality. Keep plants well-watered, even if it is foggy. Use a deep saucer underneath container to hold a bit of extra water for those times when watering cannot be done on a regular basis. FEED, PLEASE: Not only do containerized plants take in an abundance of water, they also consume extra nutrients. Feeding on a regular basis is a must. Every three to four weeks, scratch in a dose of 4-4-4 dry fertilizer. Once every two weeks, liquid feed with a balanced fertilizer. Keep on feeding. TIDY UP: Keeping container gardens free of spent blooms and dead foliage goes a long way in maintaining health and beauty. Snip back faded flowers, tip pinch leggy growth and remove unsightly foliage. Check containers every day. If the planting has been shocked with a wilt session, lightly trimming back foliage and feeding may bring it to vibrancy again. REPLANT: If a container garden becomes too shabby by midsummer, consider replanting. Local nurseries do a fine job of keeping colorful annuals and perennials in stock all summer long. Fresh soil, new plants and a restart might be what is needed.
By Terry Kramer Site Manager, Humboldt Botanical Garden