Summer Container Gardens
Need a little summer lovin'
by Dennis Patton, horticulture agent
Nothing adds a cool splash to a hot summer like a container garden packed with color. Container gardens spice up the front door and make a patio chair feel more inviting. These pot gardens have been happily growing for several months now and as a result a few may be starting to look a little tired. Show them a little love in late July and they should reward you till frost.
There is no need to fret over a less than spectacular pot as there are a couple of tricks that revive the planting. Using these tricks will put that snap back into the pot for another few months of bright, bold color.
After months of watering and plant growth, containers are low on nutrients needed for good growth. Fertilizer, mainly nitrogen sources, will help promote dark green foliage. In addition, it will promote new shoots from which flowers will emerge. It does not matter what type of fertilizer you use as long as you use it! Liquid fertilizers diluted in water can be used with good results by following labeled recommendations. Granular fertilizers such as 10-10-10 used in the garden also work just fine. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per large pot (about eighteen inches in diameter). Make an application now and again in about a month for season-long growth.
Commercial potting mixes oftentimes contain slow release fertilizers. By this time in the season the nutrient punch they packed has run out so go ahead and fertilize.
It seems that no matter the plant combinations you used, one plant always outgrows the other. We have all probably experienced the sweet potato vine that engulfs the patio. Cut them back for a fresh look. Pruning flowers has the same effect as tree and shrub pruning — it stimulates and directs new growth. Cutting back overgrown stems not only tidies up the plant but also results in new growth. This new bushier growth is often loaded with new flowers for late summer color. Don’t be afraid to remove overgrown growth. Within a few weeks new fresh growth will replace the overgrown jungle in the pot.
Plant not working? Freshen up with new plants
We all have a container with a hole where the plant choice was a dud. How about replacing it? Garden centers often stock larger size annuals that can plug a hole. Or, just wait another month and the mums and other fall plants will start appearing on the market.
Not for sure if a plant will fit the bill, how about placing a piece of garden art in the container. A small statue or garden art piece just might add what is needed to take the pot from ho-hum to outstanding.
With proper care there is no reason why your prized container garden cannot be loaded with color until the first frost. Containers can struggle during the summer but by providing a little extra tender loving care they can shine well into fall.