New England

May, 2004
Regional Report

Downsize Large Containers

If you have a very large container, such as a half barrel, you don\'t need to fill the whole thing with soil. A depth of 1 foot is enough for most container plants. Set plastic pots upside-down in the bottom of the barrel, then cover them with a false bottom of thin plywood or another sturdy material. Then you just need to fill the top half with soil. I\'ve also used Styrofoam peanuts to take up space, but invariably they mix with the soil and it gets messy when you try to clean out the container and add fresh soil the following year.

Use Water-Absorbing Crystals

To reduce watering, incorporate water-absorbing crystals into the potting mix when you plant. It\'s hard to add them afterwards. Since clay pots dry out faster than plastic, use plastic pots set inside clay pots to help hold in moisture. Grouping pots together also will help reduce moisture loss.

Support Large Containers

Use clay or metal "plant feet" underneath large containers to help with drainage and to keep pots from staining wood decks and steps. For heavy indoor plants that you summer outdoors, use plant trivets with four casters to make transporting them less backbreaking.

Set Up Plant Supports

Support plants that tend to flop over now, while they're still small. Use wire rings and supports, or make your own by placing sturdy branches in the ground in a ring around the plant. Then loop twine from stake to stake to encircle the plant. Or you can wrap the twine around each stake and the one across from it, to make a criss-cross pattern for the plant stems to grow through. If you set the cages in place now, the foliage will soon hide them. In contrast, trying to tie up toppled plants is frustrating and usually ends up looking ridiculous.

Control Tent Caterpillars

Check apple, cherry, and other fruit trees for nests of tent caterpillars. Blast low-lying nests with water to destroy them, or knock them to the ground and destroy them. A spray of Bt will kill emerging caterpillars but is not toxic to beneficial insects, birds, or humans.

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