DARREL KOEHLER: The Prairie Gardener — Container Planting

An aging population coupled with more people choosing apartment or condo living is resulting in a shift to container gardening. And that’s not surprising.

Containers are easy to move about your deck or patio. And you can raise flowers, including houseplants, annuals or even vegetables.

Containers can range from red pottery or terra cotta pots to wood, especially if you use treated cedar. And tubs, hanging baskets and planters are other commonly used containers.

It is best if containers have holes in the bottom, so excess water will drain off. It is also best if you can capture excess water in a saucer or something similar as the pots drain. You also can place gravel at the base of the container or place broken pot pieces or pebbles to improve drainage.

A good, fluffy soil works well for most plants. If you are going to grow cacti or similar plants, use a potting soil that is marked for such.

Shallow-rooted flowers can be planted in containers with less depth. Vegetables such as chard, beets or carrots will require more depth. Some plants like tuberous begonias should go in shady areas, while sun-loving vegetables can be out in the open with lots of sun.

You will have to keep your plants constantly moist. Pots dry out. You may have to water more when the heat of summer grows intense. In fact, you may have to water twice daily.

As far as fertilizing, you will have to apply often, since the draining water will flush nutrients out of the potting soil. Any of the all-purpose fertilizers such as Rapid Grow and organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion work well.

Once the growing season is over, put your clay or ceramic pots into storage in your basement or garage. It is a good idea to empty the containers of any potting soil and begin anew every year.

Tulips delayed

Cold weather has stalled the bloom of tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs. We should have a flush of color for Mother’s Day, though!

Hopefully, hard freezes didn’t do much damage to apples and especially apricot blossoms. Flowering crab apples also are showing color, a good sign.

Pruning tips

Some shrubs only bloom on the season’s previous growth. These shrubs include forsythia, lilac, spirea and viburnum. Lilacs should be trimmed over a three- to four-year period. Or you can cut everything back to 4-inch stubs without any harm.

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