Container Planter and Patio Secrets from the Master...
3 min read
We were planting container gardens the other day and got in all sorts of trouble. The issue is that one of our best friends has a ‘perfect’ patio that is full of amazing planters. There are huge tropical plants – there are amazing hanging baskets – there are patio pots full of flowers and veggies and herbs. The garden is great and it is very well taken care of by our buddy and every time we see the garden we want to do the same at home. This mystery friend – we will call him ‘Bob’ (ok that is his real name…..) has such a nice garden that he is frequently on garden tours and is a speaker at the occasional garden event.
So that leads us back to our patio garden. How can we get the ‘Bob’ garden – even if we are not the aforementioned ‘Bob’???
Here are a few of the tricks that are employed by the master himself.
Use great potting soil. Bob cheats as he uses a professional grade greenhouse potting soil that is a mix of peat moss, perlite, and a little bark. His mix is lightweight and very porous so water gets down easily – the air gets down too and that is key. We can’t get that exact potting mix but we can make sure we use a high-quality and fluffy mix. Talk to the staff at the garden centre and make sure your potting mix is top-shelf quality. To grow plants that look good all summer the soil needs to stay ‘light and fluffy’ even after a summer full of many daily waterings that can flatten and compress the soil structure.
Mix and match the plants – it is ok to have some planters of just one item – but be brave and creative and play with colours and textures and different plants. Just be careful that all like the same culture needs – in particular, the sun plants not mixing with shade plants.
Mix and match is ok – but do not go crazy and put too many plants in any one pot. The garden annuals, veggies, and tropical we see on patios will all grow – so make sure you give them some space. Three to five plants per pot is lots for most sized hanging baskets and even large patio pots will need only 5-7 plants for most sizes of pots.
Plant food secret #1 – Bob is careful to keep light feeding plants away from heavy feeding plants. Most of the plants we use on patios are average feeders – so mix in some time-release food when you plant them. A few common plants are very heavy feeders – in particular petunias and calibrachoa – so those he puts a heavy charge of time release in the soil. And a few plants – in particular, New Guinea impatiens, succulents and a few of the big tropical-like Elephant-ear – are light feeders – so with these plants he does not add any time release food.
Plant food secret #2 – Here is the big cheat – Bob knows that between the rain and his frequent watering that plant food is washed out of the pots. So he starts a once-a-week regime of using a weak solution of liquid plant food as a supplement. He knows this works because a lot of commercial greenhouse owners do this too (and Bob owns a commercial greenhouse in Ontario). He mixes the liquid plant food at half the recommended rate but uses it twice as often – so every week versus every two weeks - sneaky eh? He also can give the heavy feeding plants a little more of a drink with the plant food and the light feeding plants a little less. But one reason his patio garden looks so great is there are no hungry plants. Bob uses a fertilizer with a high middle number for much of this type of feeding – so a 15-30-15 type of liquid plant food.
So we are going to listen this summer to the master and get out there with all his tricks.