In the Garden:
New England
June, 2013
Regional Report

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This begonia will provide the best show in a hanging basket all summer long if it's potted up correctly.

Planting a Container

Container plantings, whether in window boxes, hanging baskets or individual pots, are very popular these days -- and with good reason. Container gardens allow you to grow plants in all sorts of places -- on your front steps or your deck, on a balcony or roof. You can even have a container vegetable garden on your driveway if that's your only sunny spot!

Containers allow you to concentrate your care to keep your plants looking good all season long. And by choosing an interesting pot and an eye-catching mix of plants, you can give your garden an exciting focal point that complements your other plantings.The key to a successful container planting is a good start. Follow these suggestions and you'll have a container garden that will flourish.

Allow for Drainage
The first step is to choose a container that has a drainage hole in the bottom. If you want to use a decorative pot that doesn't have a drainage hole, either drill one in the bottom or plant in a smaller container with a hole and place that container within the decorative pot, making sure it is elevated on some sort of pedestal so it can drain.

Don't Add Gravel
One piece of advice you may have encountered is to put some coarse material such as gravel at the bottom of the container to improve drainage. This is a myth! Adding a layer of coarse material will actually make the container drain less well because water does not move easily across the boundary from the finer-textured planting mix to to the coarser material. What you'll end up with is planting mix that will become saturated before the water in it begins to move into that coarse layer.

Use a Container Planting Mix
Use a "planting mix," not soil straight from the garden to fill your containers. This type of growing medium will allow for proper drainage and aeration, while retaining adequate moisture. For reasons that can be explained by complicated physics, even soil that is well-drained in the ground will not be adequately drained or aerated in a container. Most container planting mixes are soilless, and are made from a mixture of materials such as peat, coir, bark, perlite, or vermiculite. Packaged mixes are also pasteurized so they don't contain organisms that could cause plant disease and may or may not contain fertilizer.

Moisten the mix before you fill your containers; it should be damp, not wringing wet. Add enough planting mix so that, when the plants are in place, the mix level is an inch or so below the rim of small containers and two inches below for large containers. This will give you room to add enough water when you irrigate. If your planting mix doesn't contain fertilizer, you can add some slow-release fertilizer granules to it to keep your plants fed for a couple of months.

Once your plants are in, water the planting mix well and keep an eye on water needs. Plants in containers dry out faster than those in the ground. Then enjoy!

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