We are extremely proud to have a monthly column in The Black Mountain News. The column is titled Gardening in the Valley and the author is a member of the committee. Typically the column is the third Wednesday of each month. So pick up a copy of the paper.
Also want to thank Rhonda Reedy for her behind the scenes management of the column and working with the paper. For being a relatively new member, she has already done so much for our committee.
Committee members interested in writing an article, please contact Rhonda. If you are wondering what to write about, select a month and we can offer you some suggestions.
Scroll down to read this month's column.
When walking around town or visiting a garden my eye is automatically drawn to plant containers. The combination of colors and textures of the plants plus the design gives the container a personal look. When the plants look healthy and happy, it's because of what's going on inside the container is working. Since being on the beautification committee, I've learned some new methods in creating and maintaining container gardens and would like to share them with you.
Playing Well Together ~ Wherever you decide to locate the container, monitor how much direct sun it will receive. This will dictate which plants are right for that location. In general: Full sun is 6 hours of direct sunlight. Partial sun/partial shade is 3 to 6 hours of sunlight with relief from the intense heat of late afternoon sun. Full shade is less than 3 hours of direct sunlight each day, with filtered sunlight during the rest of the day. For any container garden to thrive, it's critical to make sure all the plants require the same light and water. To find out what a plant requires, check the plant tag or internet.
Selecting a Container ~ Looking for less maintenance? Who isn't, then select a large container. It holds more soil which allows the plant to retain the food and water essential to growing a bigger root system. A large container also requires less frequent watering. Small containers dry out quicker, which can cause added stress to the plants which overtime can become more susceptible to pests and diseases. The kind of material your container is made out of will also impact how quickly the soil dries out. Clay, wood, and unglazed ceramic containers will dry out quicker than plastic or glazed pottery.
Check the Drainage ~ After you decide on the plant container, flip it over and check out whether it has enough drainage or if more holes can be added. For a large container, it's good to have at least a one inch hole. If you don't have enough drainage, depending on what your container is made of, you can usually drill or punch extra holes.
Choosing a Soil ~ It's important that the soil is light and fluffy. Select a good potting soil mix that contains peat moss, pine bark and perlite or vermiculite. Peat moss provides moisture and nutrient retention. Pine bark provides anchorage, some nutrient and moisture retention. Perlite and vermiculite provide most of the air space in the soil. Some mixes may include either a starter charge or slow release fertilizer. A starter charge means a minimal amount of fertilizer is in the potting mix and typically gone from the soil after a couple of waterings. A slow release has more fertilizer incorporated into the mix but rarely lasts beyond the first month.
How much Water? Before watering, check to see if the plant really needs it. Stick your finger into the soil all the way to the second knuckle. If it feels dry at your fingertip, give the soil (not the leaves) a good, long drink until water runs out the drainage hole. Watering deeply encourages roots to grow down toward the bottom of the pot, which is better for plants. Watering in the morning is recommended over giving them a drink in the evening. As water can sit on the leaves overnight, making the plant more susceptible to diseases.
Feeding Time ~ If the potting soil doesn't already have a fertilizer mixed in, then add a slow release fertilizer into the soil when planting your container. Generally slow-release fertilizers will provide nutrition for a few months. As the plants grow larger and time moves on, reapply the fertilizer again with regular applications of a water-soluble fertilizer. Before applying fertilizer, always read the directions on your fertilizer package.
Putting It All Together ~ Cover the bottom drainage hole of the container with plastic screening or a coffee filter, this will allow the soil to stay in and water to drain out. Fill the container with potting soil within a couple of inches from the top. If the potting soil doesn't have fertilizer in the mix, then add in the fertilizer according to directions on the package. Carefully take the plant out of the nursery container by turning it upside down and pushing it out by the drainage holes. If the plant is root bound, carefully separate the roots so they will be able to spread out and take up soil and nutrients into the plant.
For design, you can't go wrong with the thriller, filler and spiller method. The thriller is the star of the show, an eye-catching vertical plant that is planted in the middle of the container. The fillers are mid-sized, rounded or mounded plants that enhance and surround the thriller. The spillers are showy, trailing plants that are planted closely to the edge of the container. With a design in mind, dig a hole for each plant and fill in the holes surrounding the plants with soil then gently water until it flows through the bottom on the container.
As you maintain the container garden, record your experiences and take some pictures for your garden journal. You will be happy that you did as this will leave a reference for many years to come. Plus you too will have some experiences to share with others when they ask your secrets for creating a beautiful container. Happy Gardening!
Bio: Lyndall Noyes-Brownell proudly serves as co-chair for Black Mountain Beautification Committee, an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer of Buncombe County and chair of Black Mountain Blooms Seed Lending Library. She is the webmaster for blackmountainbeautification.org and cares for plant containers in downtown Black Mountain.