Time to Revive Summer Container Gardens
by Dennis Patton, horticulture agent
Colorful container gardens bring beauty to front porches and patios all summer long. Unfortunately, for some, the good intentions in the spring may have begun to fizzle during the heat of the summer.
Don't give up hope if your container garden is starting to look tired and ready for the compost pile. These tips, plus the arrival of cooler fall days, can breathe new life into the planting.
Feed to Promote Growth
Container gardens require constant watering to thrive as the summer heat and winds quickly dry out the soil. Unfortunately, nutrients in the soil are leached out from all this watering or are consumed by the growing plants. This lack of nutrients is like a car running out of gas.
There are several ways to fertilize containers. Water-soluble fertilizers are easy, just follow the directions on the package. Lawn and garden fertilizers without herbicides are an economical choice as well. A teaspoon spread around the surface works for smaller containers, while a tablespoon is necessary for larger plantings.
Before fertilizing, make sure the soil is moist and the plants are not under stress. Apply water-soluble fertilizers by labeled rates. If using a garden fertilizer, apply about once a month.
Avoid the use of slow-relase fertilizers this late in the season. Time is running out, and they need the push now.
Prune to Promote Growth
Some container plants may be overgrown or look straggly. Just like pruning a shrub or tree to stimulate new growth, apply the same principles to annuals in containers.
Is the sweet potato vine taking over the patio? Is the coleus tall and leggy, crowding out other plants? If so, get out the pruning shears and cut them back.
Removing the top growth will encourage new branches to develop below the cut. The new growth will be stronger, stimulate flowering, and breathe new life into the pot.
Pruning can and should be done all summer long to keep the planting fresh. Some plants outgrow and overtake less vigorous plants in the container. Nipping back the more robust frowers maintains the balance of growth, keeping the planter looking terrific.
Replace the Dead and Dying
If fertilization and pruning will not work, it is time to get ruthless and remove the underperforming plant. Don't think of a dead plant or a hole in the planting as a failure. Instead, look at this spot as an opportunity to make a change.
Take a trip to the garden center to find inspiration and pop in a new plant. By adding a different plant, it can change the look of the container or transition it into a fall display.
An array of fall plants is coming onto the market. Use mums, flowering kale, colorful peppers, and pansies to transition between the seasons.
With the cooler days and nights, September and October can increase growth and flowering before the first frost. Don't give up on your containers. Impart new life by reviving your summer annuals. With a bit of care, they will continue to provide a splash of color and enjoyment.