Yard | Garden Archives - HomeTips Yard | Garden Archives - HomeTips
Select Page
url is https://dev.hometips.com:443/category/yard-garden

Caring for Container Plants

Whether a plant is in a container or in the ground, it still has the same basic requirements for sun and shade, water, nutrients, and winter care. It is also subject to the same pests and diseases. In that sense, caring for plants in containers is the same as caring for plants in the ground.

Because plants in containers can’t stretch their roots out to get water and nutrients from the surrounding soil, and because the roots are generally not as insulated from temperature extremes, there are some care requirements specific to container gardening.

Watering Container Plants

Watering is key. Plants in containers need to be watered more often than plants in the ground. This is especially true for hanging containers, those with lightweight soil mixes, and all containers during hot weather.[GARD align=”left”]

Water container plants gently, using a watering can with a gentle flow, or a sprayer or watering wand attached to a garden hose. Soak the soil completely. Empty any saucer below the pot as soon as possible, and never let water stand for more than 24 hours. If it’s hard to get the saucer out, use a turkey baster to remove the water. Also remember that even self-watering planters will need to have their reservoirs filled with water periodically.

Drip irrigation is another choice. There are kits available, or you can set up your own system. Not only does drip use less water, an automated system connecting your pots can save you considerable maintenance time. If you’re planning a patio, consider running a drip system under it before you pave, and plan to have emitters emerge from the paving at intervals where you want to add pots.

Periodically submerge hanging baskets and smaller pots to soak the soil completely. This will also help clean out accumulated salts from the outsides of terracotta pots and keep the plants from drying out. In the morning, fill a tub or bucket with cool to lukewarm water. Submerge the pot just to the rim and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Mix slow-release dry fertilizer into the soil when you’re planting to nourish the new plants.Wk1003Mike / Shutterstock.com

Mix slow-release dry fertilizer into the soil when you’re planting to nourish the new plants.

Fertilizing Container Gardens

Container plants also need regular fertilizing. You can use either inorganic or organic fertilizer. The former provides quick results; the latter take longer to work but also lasts longer. Slow-release fertilizers and dry fertilizers can be mixed into the soil when you’re planting, and more can be added to the soil throughout the growing season. Liquid fertilizers can be added with a hose-end attachment, watering can, or sprayer. Most experts recommend using a liquid fertilizer every two weeks throughout the growing season.

Pruning & Transplanting Container Gardens

Gentle pruning, especially pinching back faded blooms, cutting off wayward branches, and shaping and shearing plants as needed helps keep your container gardens looking good. You can also prune to keep a plant in check and prevent it from outgrowing its container, but that can be an ongoing battle. If a plant is too large for its pot, transplant it to a larger container.

You can tell if a plant is too large when it starts straining at the sides of the container and the roots start to grow out from the drainage holes. To transplant, gently turn the pot and tap on the bottom until the plant is loosened and can be tilted out of the container. If the plant is stuck, try running a knife between the edge of the pot and the soil. You also may need to pull at the soil with your hands, but don’t pull on the stem or leaves of the plant.

Container Gardening Winter Survival

Containers and the plants in them are vulnerable in cold weather. The containers can crack and break, and the plants’ leaves and roots can freeze. If light frosts are predicted in mild-winter areas, simply watering thoroughly well before the expected frost and adding mulch may be enough. For added protection, you can group pots together.

If the weather will be slightly chillier, consider covering both the pot and the plant. A cover made of thick plastic, fabric, or burlap works well. Because the cover shouldn’t touch the plant, create a cage by driving stakes into the pot or the surrounding ground and draping the cover over it. You can also use a tomato cage, a chair, or a small table. Remove the cover the next morning once the temperatures warm up. To further insulate the pot, wrap it in plastic wrap.[GARD align=”left”]

In cold-winter climates, the temperature changes between freezing and thawing that occur in pots mean overwintering is more complicated. The best bet is to move plants to shelter, on a roofed porch or under a deck, into a greenhouse or shed, in a well-lit garage or basement, or in an unheated indoor room. If that isn’t possible, try using a version of the Minnesota tip method. Dig a trench a foot deep and tip both the container and the plant into it. Cover with 18 inches to 2 feet of leaves or straw and top with plastic.

Container Gardening

Drainage & Soil Mixtures for Container Plants

Get your green thumb with this expert advice on how to grow container plants, including container plant growing basics such as proper drainage and planter mixes.

While you can grow almost anything in a container that you can grow in the ground, you do have to take some steps beforehand. First and foremost is to plan for drainage, which means devising a way to get the pot off the ground. You will also need to purchase the right type of potting soil.

how to grow container plants

Container plants elegantly climb the stairs of this outdoor terrace.

Container Plant Drainage

If excess water can’t drain out of a container, you run the risk of a waterlogged plant—a surefire death sentence. Most pots come with holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain. But if you’re making a container from something that started its life with a different purpose, it’s likely that it won’t.

Experienced gardeners can and do keep plants in non-draining containers alive by judiciously watering and monitoring drainage. But it’s simpler in the long run to provide an outlet for the water. The easiest way is to drill a hole in the bottom of your container. Use a masonry or carbide bit on stone, terra cotta, and concrete; be sure to drill a starter hole first to avoid cracking the pot. Lightweight lead and iron pots can often be punctured with a nail and hammer; heavier ones will need a metal bit.[GARD align=”left”]

If you don’t want to drill a hole in your container, choose a slightly smaller pot that has a drainage hole and plant in that. Then place that pot inside your preferred container. The smaller pot shouldn’t sit directly on the bottom of the larger container; instead, elevate it on a piece of brick, another pot, or a bed of pebbles.

Periodically remove the inner pot and drain the larger one. This method has the added advantage of making it easy to change plants in the larger container. If you want to dress up the areas between the two pots, fill in with trailing plants at the edges of the smaller container or cover it with Spanish moss.

Container Plant Growing Mixes

Garden soil is fine for the garden but not for containers. It is generally too dense and doesn’t allow for sufficient drainage in a pot. Potting mixes designed for containers will drain well yet retain sufficient water to keep the plant or plants healthy. Many also include added nutrients designed for container plants.

Potting soils can be either soil-based or soil-less. The former contains some garden loam, but also include plant food and other materials such as sand, vermiculite, perlite, or bark chips to lighten it more. Potting soils tend to be heavier than soil-less mixes, but they are better at retaining moisture and nutrients and are heavy enough to hold the plants in place. They’re the best choice for permanent container plantings and larger plants.[GARD align=”right”]

Soil-less mixes are made from peat or peat-like materials, along with plant food and other additives. Though they dry out and lose nutrients quickly, they’re a good choice for annuals and for hanging baskets where weight is a concern. You can also find mixes for specific plants, such as succulents, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Some potting mixes also contain water-retaining polymers and slow-release fertilizers.

Elevating Plant Containers

Getting containers even an inch above the surface below them helps them drain properly and encourages air circulation. It also helps prevent water stains if they are placed on decks or patios. You can find plain or decorative pot “feet,” small stands, or wood trivets. You can also use bricks, pieces of wood, or even other flowerpots. Some pots come with built-in feet.

 

Container Gardening

Drainage & Soil Mixtures for Container Plants

Get your green thumb with this expert advice on how to grow container plants, including container plant growing basics such as proper drainage and planter mixes.

While you can grow almost anything in a container that you can grow in the ground, you do have to take some steps beforehand. First and foremost is to plan for drainage, which means devising a way to get the pot off the ground. You will also need to purchase the right type of potting soil.

how to grow container plants

Container plants elegantly climb the stairs of this outdoor terrace.

Container Plant Drainage

If excess water can’t drain out of a container, you run the risk of a waterlogged plant—a surefire death sentence. Most pots come with holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain. But if you’re making a container from something that started its life with a different purpose, it’s likely that it won’t.

Experienced gardeners can and do keep plants in non-draining containers alive by judiciously watering and monitoring drainage. But it’s simpler in the long run to provide an outlet for the water. The easiest way is to drill a hole in the bottom of your container. Use a masonry or carbide bit on stone, terra cotta, and concrete; be sure to drill a starter hole first to avoid cracking the pot. Lightweight lead and iron pots can often be punctured with a nail and hammer; heavier ones will need a metal bit.[GARD align=”left”]

If you don’t want to drill a hole in your container, choose a slightly smaller pot that has a drainage hole and plant in that. Then place that pot inside your preferred container. The smaller pot shouldn’t sit directly on the bottom of the larger container; instead, elevate it on a piece of brick, another pot, or a bed of pebbles.

Periodically remove the inner pot and drain the larger one. This method has the added advantage of making it easy to change plants in the larger container. If you want to dress up the areas between the two pots, fill in with trailing plants at the edges of the smaller container or cover it with Spanish moss.

Container Plant Growing Mixes

Garden soil is fine for the garden but not for containers. It is generally too dense and doesn’t allow for sufficient drainage in a pot. Potting mixes designed for containers will drain well yet retain sufficient water to keep the plant or plants healthy. Many also include added nutrients designed for container plants.

Potting soils can be either soil-based or soil-less. The former contains some garden loam, but also include plant food and other materials such as sand, vermiculite, perlite, or bark chips to lighten it more. Potting soils tend to be heavier than soil-less mixes, but they are better at retaining moisture and nutrients and are heavy enough to hold the plants in place. They’re the best choice for permanent container plantings and larger plants.[GARD align=”right”]

Soil-less mixes are made from peat or peat-like materials, along with plant food and other additives. Though they dry out and lose nutrients quickly, they’re a good choice for annuals and for hanging baskets where weight is a concern. You can also find mixes for specific plants, such as succulents, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Some potting mixes also contain water-retaining polymers and slow-release fertilizers.

Elevating Plant Containers

Getting containers even an inch above the surface below them helps them drain properly and encourages air circulation. It also helps prevent water stains if they are placed on decks or patios. You can find plain or decorative pot “feet,” small stands, or wood trivets. You can also use bricks, pieces of wood, or even other flowerpots. Some pots come with built-in feet.

 

Container Gardening

Mulching Mowers Buying Guide

Everyone wants to do something good for the environment, and the new breed of yard equipment that allows you to recycle debris right in your own backyard makes it easy.

Mulching Lawnmower    Photo: Toro

         Cordless Electric Mulching Lawnmower          Photo: Toro

If your local garbage service doesn’t accept lawn clippings or leaves, these new tools can help you avoid paying extra fees for disposal. Of course, the idea behind recycling is that your lawn clippings and leaves are not debris at all but a valuable organic resource that should be put back into the soil to help build a healthy lawn and garden.

The most popular piece of lawn-care equipment is the walk-behind mower. More than 85 percent are now labeled as “mulching mowers” to respond to the public’s environmental concerns.

A mulching mower, like a food processor for your lawn, uses a special blade and enclosed deck to slice up grass clippings and dried leaves numerous times before depositing them back deep into the turf, where they decompose in a few days. The result, if conditions are right and the mower is designed well, is a clean, vacuumed appearance without any unsightly clumps or hedgerows of grass. If you worry this will create thatch, don’t—thatch is not made up of dead grass blades left on the lawn but rather on excess surface roots caused by overwatering and overfertilizing.

Using a mulching mower saves in several ways. It saves time, since you don’t have to repeatedly stop the mower to empty and reattach the bag. It saves money, since the nitrogen in the clippings fertilizes the lawn, reducing the amount of supplemental fertilizer you have to apply. And it leaves more room in your local landfill for real garbage.

How do you choose the right mower for your yard? Here are the signs of quality to look for:

Convertibility. Can you easily convert the mulching mower to a bagging mower or a side- discharge mower? The latter is important since it’s sometimes difficult for the mower to cope with thick, lush, rapidly growing grass. Temporarily switching to a side-discharge mode will prevent clogs and stalling out the mower. A mower that bags is useful in the fall, when you may want to collect your leaves for use as mulch for your vegetable garden or flowerbeds.

Engine type & horsepower. A mulching mower should have at least 5 horsepower, preferably 6. Low-cost mowers with 3.5-horsepower engines may not have sufficient power to chop up clippings thoroughly. Automotive-design overhead-valve engines on premium mowers are powerful, efficient, and tend to have larger and quieter mufflers.

For mowing over hilly terrain, you may want to consider a mower with a two-cycle engine since they are constantly injected with lubricating oil and don’t have the problem of oil starvation that standard, splash-lubricated four-cycle engines do.

Electric/cordless models. In recent years, major manufacturers like Toro and Lawn-Boy have introduced innovative electric corded and cordless mowers, some with mulching capability. Toro’s CareFree offers on-board charging and enough reserve power to cut an average-sized lawn.

Mulching technology. If you take a look at some competitive mowers, you’ll see some distinct differences in how they solve the problem of chopping up grass fine enough so that it disappears. Most manufacturers design the mower’s deck and blade so that the clippings will be stirred up and cut several times before being blown back into the grass.

Some manufacturers add baffles or fans to the inside of the deck to enhance the process. Toro equips its Recycler mower decks with specially designed deflectors to make it easier to cut through dense, damp grass and leaves.

Build integrity. Better-quality units have power-paint finishes that don’t flake off, sturdier wheel adjuster assemblies, easily replaced drive belts, multiple-speed gear-drive transmissions, and a minimum of plastic parts.

As with anything, you get what you pay for when you buy a mulching mower. To take advantage of some of the advanced features discussed above, such as overhead-valve engines and high-efficiency decks, you’ll pay around $400 or more. There are some good, solid values out there for less than $300, but make sure the products are supported by a dealer network that will be able to fix them if they break down. Many dealers refuse to touch bargain-basement machines.

Courtesy Toro Wheel Horse Tractors & Riding Mowers

Lawns & Ground Covers

How to Tune Up Your Lawn Mower

It is estimated that over two-thirds of all lawn mowers do not receive the tune-up they need each spring to keep them running in tip-top shape.

Keeping a well-oiled machine is the key to lawnmower efficiency and safety.  Photo: Dreamstime

Keeping a well-oiled machine is the key to lawnmower efficiency and safety. Photo: Dreamstime

Regular tune-ups reduce fuel consumption and emission levels and help to increase mower life and reliability. Now is the time to get your mower ready for the season with a few simple tasks.

Hopefully last fall you remembered to run the fuel out of the gas tank. If not, drain the old fuel and replace the gas filter. Keep in mind, fuel older than 90 days can gel and clog the carburetor, making the mower hard to start. Once the fuel tank is empty and the spark plug wire is disconnected, you’re ready to get started.

A clean mower is a healthy mower. Caked-on grass and debris can clog a mower and significantly decrease performance. Wash and thoroughly dry the machine (a power blower can be effective in blowing standing water off the mower deck and from hard-to-access areas). Use a screw driver or putty knife to clear the under carriage of grass and debris.Sharpen or replace the blade.

If you have an air-cooled engine, use a wooden dowel or stick to remove any gunk from the cooling fins. If your machine is water-cooled, check the condition of the coolant and top off the reservoir if necessary. Use a strong jet of water to clean the radiator’s cooling fins.

Sharpen the lawnmower blades once a year. A dull blade can harm the grass and make it more susceptible to disease. Have the blade professionally sharpened or replaced if there are large knicks or dings in it. Refer to your owner’s manual for additional information on maintaining the cutting blade.

Changing oil keeps the engine properly lubricated and ensures that clean oil is continuously distributed to engine components, reducing friction. Manufacturers may recommend specific oil removal techniques so refer to your owner’s manual before starting this process. Clean the oil fill area, remove the dipstick, and place a catch can under the mower. Depending on manufacturer recommendations, either tip the mower on its side to allow the old oil to drain from the oil fill tube or remove the oil drain plug located under the deck. Allow the oil to drain completely, and, if necessary, replace the drain plug. Change the oil filter and refill the engine with oil.

Replacing the spark plug every spring ensures a consistent spark, reliable starting, and improved fuel economy. Remove the old spark plug, blowing away any debris with compressed air first. Before installing the new plug, be sure to check its torque, or gap (refer to your owner’s manual for specifications). Once you have checked the plug for proper gap, screw it in tight with your fingers. Then give it a one-quarter turn more with a socket wrench. A few dabs of anti-seize compound will ensure easy removal next time.

The air filter should be cleaned or replaced every spring and checked periodically throughout the mowing season. A clogged air filter reduces the air/fuel ratio, resulting in higher fuel consumption and a rough-running engine. Check your owner’s manual to see which type of filter your mower requires. There are generally two types: paper or foam. If your mower requires a foam filter, be sure to saturate it with fresh engine oil, wrap it in a clean rag, and then squeeze out the excess oil before installing.

Clean and lubricate the choke and throttle linkages, and apply grease to all the fittings, including the mower deck. Spray all linkages, cables, and wheel areas with WD-40. Do not use oil to do this because oil will retain dirt and eventually clog the area.

Inspect drive belts and tighten loose belts. If your inspection shows any deep cracks or ply separations, replace the belt.

Charge the battery and check the security of the terminals. Clean and apply grease to the posts to retard corrosion.

Visit your local outdoor equipment dealer or hardware store for the necessary parts. When the tune-up is completed, replace the spark plug wire and fill the gas tank with fresh fuel. Your mower is now ready for the mowing season.

Courtesy Yardcare.com

Lawns & Ground Covers

Lawn Mowing Tips

Most cool-season grasses should be cut when they reach heights of 3 to 3 1/2 inches, typically once a week.

Mowing properly encourages a healthy lawn. Photo: Sears

Mowing properly encourages a healthy lawn. Photo: Sears

Cut warm-season grasses when they reach 2 to 2 1/2 inches. Cut no more than one-third of the grass height at each mowing to avoid damaging the plants. If the lawn grows too high for you to cut off one-third the height and have an acceptable length, cut off one-third now and one-third again in two or three days.

Cutting more than one-third the height results in clumps of clippings that tend to lie on top of the lawn, decompose more slowly, and give the grass a less attractive, open, bristly appearance. In addition, short cutting will stunt or slow root grow and weaken the plants. But these aren’t the only reasons not to cut your grass too short:

First, grass grows from the crown, not the blade tips. This trait makes grass ideal for lawns because it keeps on growing despite the regular mowing off of its upper stem, leaf sheath, and blades. This is also why it’s important not to damage grass crowns by accidental scalping with the mower.

Second, keeping grass on the longer side allows it greater surface area to carry out photosynthesis. This in turn results in healthier plants.

Third, taller grass grows slower than shorter grass. You can use this simple fact to eliminate up to 20 percent of the mowing you do annually. That’s a saving of about eight hours a year for the average lawn owner, not to mention the savings on gasoline and wear on the mower.

Lastly, by keeping your grass at the upper end of its recommended mowing height, you can prevent most weeds from germinating and thereby eliminate the need for herbicides. Following are some additional general lawn-mowing tips:

1. Mow only when the grass is dry.

2. Change mowing patterns frequently to prevent compaction.

3. Leave clippings on the lawn unless they are very long or wet.

4. Mow with a sharp blade. Resharpen after every 10 hours of use. Bring the blade to a professional sharpening service once a year. Replace the blade as necessary.

5. Rinse the grass clippings off your mower after it has cooled to reduce the chance of spreading lawn disease.

6. When it is hot, cut grass at the high end of the recommended height range; cut at the low end of the recommended height range during cool weather or in shade.

7. Make your last cut of the season at the low end of the recommended height range.

Courtesy Yardcare.com

Lawns & Ground Covers

Shopping cart

Subtotal
Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.
Checkout