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WISDOM FROM THE WILD CHILD GARDEN: August 2022: CONTAINER GARDENS: PART I:

WHAT IS CONTAINER GARDENING? Container gardens are great for beginning gardeners, people who have limited space, or anyone who wants to dress up their porch or patio. They can be planted with a single plant or a combination of plants depending on the look desired. Popular plants for containers include flowers, herbs, veggies, grasses and succulents. Many gardeners switch out the plants they grow seasonally to ensure nonstop color throughout the year.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CONTAINER:

• It's possible to plant directly into any container so long as there are drainage holes. Drilling through wood, plastic or fiberglass is relatively easy. Make a drain hole in a clay pot by using an electric drill with a masonry bit, working carefully to avoid breaking the pot.

• For large containers, buy the best and most affordable as they will be around for a long time. Choose classic shapes and styles that will fit in with any garden. Brightly colored pots will restrict the planting choices.

• Use the materials and architectural details of the house as a starting point. Match warm brick walls with terra-cotta pots, or a white colonial-style frontage with classic lead or faux-lead finish planters. For a rustic timber house, seek out beaten copper tubs or weathered wooden troughs.

• A tall, narrow pot is less stable than a squatty, low one. Use tall pots for trailing plants, which are not usually top heavy, and let them cascade over. Shallow containers work best at the front of a group to anchor it.

• Avoid planting into a narrow-necked pot, whose body is larger than the neck, as it is difficult to get a plant out once its roots have spread. That's why flowerpots are always wider at the top than the bottom.

• Don't worry about having a decorative pot for every plant. Keep most of the container plants in regular black plastic pots. Keep the decorative pots to the front of the display and allow black plastic ones to just recede into the background.

MASON JAR CONTAINER GARDEN: It’s easy to put a Mason Jar Garden together! A continuous supply of homegrown fresh herbs and vegetables can be readily available, and mason jars also look delightful with flowers. A pallet or any other backdrop can be used, including wood, a chalkboard, an old door, a recycled shutter, or other household items.


The backdrop for the mason jar garden can be made from just about any material. Examples include a pallet, wood, a chalkboard, an old door, an old shutter, or any other household item of choice. The best way to decide if a backdrop will be right for the project is to check how easy it will be to attach the jars. To hang the jars, clamps are the best choice.

MASON JAR GARDEN SUPPLIES:

Mason Jars: Roots generally like to grow away from light, so colored jars, especially amber colored ones, are best. If using clear jars, wrap a piece of paper around the jar to keep the root zone in the dark. This will prevent algal growth on the container walls and on the root surface. Algae do not adversely affect plant growth, but they make the jars look untidy. Narrow-mouthed jars have the advantage that they support the cuttings and keep them upright. However, the mouth of the container shouldn’t be too narrow or tight-fitting around the cutting. The roots have to breathe, and the mouth of the container should allow free movement of air. If using a wide-mouthed container, cover the top with nylon or wire netting, and insert the cuttings through the holes for support.


Clamps for attaching the jars to the backdrop.


High Quality Potting Soil or Water: For a simple mason jar herb garden in the kitchen, root herb cuttings in plain water. Avoid using chlorinated water directly as the bleaching chemical is not exactly friendly to plant tissues. Tap water that has been left to air overnight is fine, so is stored rainwater. Spring water or well water is the best because it has some amount of dissolved minerals that may be of use to plants.


Pebbles for Drainage.


Herbs or Plant Cuttings: Soft cuttings are pretty quick to root in water, and don’t require rooting hormones. Snip off 6-inch sections from herbs growing in the garden and put them in the water-filled containers. The best part of growing herbs from cuttings is that herbs from the store can also be used. Just wash them in plain water and cut off the lower portion. Remove lower leaves from cuttings and trim the lower tips close to the nodes from where the roots arise. When they are inserted into the jars, there shouldn’t be any leaves touching the water. They can rot easily and spoil the water, as they do in flower vases. Woody cuttings like rosemary may take longer to root, so be patient. Change the water once a week without disturbing the cuttings. Once the roots start growing, usually between 2-6 weeks, water changes may not be necessary. If willow trees are available, steep some branches in warm water overnight to make a natural rooting hormone mix. Place the cuttings in the infusion to encourage rooting. Alternately, rooting hormone powder can be used.


DIRECTIONS:

• Fill mason jars 3/4 full with of potting soil or water.

• Add seeds or cuttings to each jar following the planting instructions.

• Cover the seeds or cuttings with additional potting soil or water.

• Add identification tags to each mason jar.

• Water in seeds with just enough water to dampen.

THE SELF-WATERING MASON JAR GARDEN: Black thumbs be gone! A self-watering mason jar garden is outfitted with a passive hydroponic system known as “wicking,” which brings water and nutrients up to the plant's roots.


This year-round indoor garden has the following components:

32-ounce Mason Jar: this is used as the reservoir.


3-inch Net Pot: just enough to catch and hang on the lip of the mason jar. The main purpose is to hold the plant above the water, so the upper roots can take in oxygen. A tea strainer can also be used.


Growing Medium of choice.


Wick: a 750 nylon or 550 paracord will resist mold and mildew and wicks water well. Paracord is inexpensive and easy to find.


Coco Pith: a multi-purpose growing medium made out of coconut husk. The fibrous coconut husk is prewashed, machine dried, sieved, and made free from sand and other contaminations such as animal and plant residue. Coco pith is a very good alternative to traditional peat moss and rock wool. Its air-filled porosity and high-water holding capacity make it an ideal growing medium for plants. It is 100% organic and ecofriendly, free from soil borne pathogens and weeds, and is ideal for plant growth.


Activated Charcoal: a form of carbon which has developed pores by undergoing a process of activation. In this process, carbon is exposed to very high temperatures with various gases. This process increases the surface that helps in the absorption of chemical impurities and pollutants. Activated charcoal helps grow the most productive and disease-free plants possible.


DIRECTIONS:

• Pour 2 cups of water into the jar and screw on the jar ring.

• Pull the wick loop up so that it is ½-inch below the top of the net pot.

• Pour the growing medium into the net pot through and around the wick and fill to ½-inch below the top of the pot.

• Run warm water over the grow medium for 30 seconds.

• Place the coco pith disc on top of the grow medium and pour activated carbon evenly over it.

• Insert the net pot and place on top of the jar ring.

• Sprinkle seed into the net pot and push them below the surface of the coco pith. Note: If growing mint, don’t push the seeds below the surface because they need sun to germinate.

• Place the jar in a sunny location.

• Check the coco pith daily and make sure it is slightly damp. If not, spray with a little water.

• Once sprouts develop, empty the water from the jar.

• Dissolve 1/8-teaspoon of plant food in 2 cups of water and pour ½-cup through the net pot using care around the sprouts.

• Remove the net pot and pour the remaining plant food directly into the jar.

• The seeds take 5-18 days to sprout. If the roots grow through the net pot and into the reservoir, change the water and plant food mixture every 2-3 weeks.

HOW TO FEED WATER-GROWN PLANTS: Plants growing in plain water will soon exhaust what little mineral nutrients the water may contain. Since they don’t have access to the nutrients naturally occurring in soil, they need supplemental nutrition to do well. Regular fertilizers diluted in water or proprietary formulations designed for hydroponics can be used at regular intervals.


When using fertilizers to feed water grown plants, they leave some residues that may accumulate in the water and on the roots, causing root burn. Change the water at regular intervals and flush the plants and the containers occasionally.

MASON JAR GARDEN GROWING MEDIUMS: SOIL: The growing medium is the most important thing to consider when building a mason jar garden. Normal garden soil cannot be used to grow plants in jars because it has less drainage. After some time, the soil loses all the drainage and will compact, which is not good for the roots of plants. Normal garden soil also has fewer nutrients in it. Plants in jars only have the soil to get all the nutrients from, and if that soil is not fertile, the plants will die.


Select a good quality soil for the mason jar garden. Potting soil is an excellent choice because it is specially made for plants in jars. This soil has great drainage and contains a great number of nutrients.

CHOOSING THE BEST LOCATION: MASON JAR GARDEN: Every plant needs some sunlight to grow, and the sun requirements can range from 1 to 8 hours daily for optimal growth. Place the mason jar garden near a window that receives plenty of sunlight. LED grow lights can also be used, and they are an amazing tool for indoor gardeners. LED grow lights will provide the required light for the mason jar garden without the worry about seasonal changes and fluctuations in sunlight. Any kind of plant can be grown year-round using LED grow lights.


When choosing a location:

• Use slow growing herbs and plants.

• No direct light or the ball of the roots can cook when the jar heats up.

• Don’t over water, simply dampen.

• Use rocks for drainage.

• Do not hang near heater vent!

HOUSEPLANTS FOR THE MASON JAR GARDEN: Not just herbs, but other houseplants do equally well in the indoor garden. The following varieties are just perfect for those who regularly kill houseplants by over watering them or forgetting to water altogether.

Aluminum Plant (Pilea cadierei): This plant’s succulent-like leaves and stems make it easy to propagate through cuttings, and cuttings of this beautiful plant with silver markings do very well in water. Using sanitized pruning tools, snip off a stem that is 4- to 6-inches long. Pinch off the bottom leaves and place the cutting in a small glass of water or moist potting mix. Do not allow the foliage to be submerged in the water and change the water when it starts looking cloudy. Roots develop in around two weeks, and a well-established root system is achieved in 6-8 weeks. For cuttings started in soil, keep the soil moist but not soggy to prevent rot, and use a well-drained potting mix.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema commutatum): To propagate this plant in water, you’re looking for a fresh cut from a matured healthy plant. Try to get around 6-inches of stem with the cut taken just below the leaf node which is located where the leaves shoot out from the stem. To give these a great start, take a few stems with at least one leaf already emerging. Transfer that to a glass jar, then fill it just enough for the roots to submerge in water. Use rainwater if possible, however, if using tap water, leave it out for a day so that the chlorine can evaporate. Chemicals in the water affect the plants growth and may even kill it.

Airplane Plant: Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): Propagate this plant in by placing large plantlets or entire plants cleaned of all soil particles in water, then transfer to a mason jar filled with soil after it’s rooted and growing. Replace soil with pebbles after it’s rooted. The roots will cling to the pebbles, do all that is needed is to make sure the leaves of the plant aren’t submerging in the water. Only let the water be the root system. Watch for a build-up of salt in the water. That’ll contaminate it, cause yellowing, and eventually rotting. Prevent that by changing the water weekly. If it’s tap water, let it dechlorinate by leaving it overnight. Preferably, leave a container outdoors to collect rainwater and use that.

Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia seguine): also known as Dumb Cane, cut top growth of this plant and pot it up in water after the cut end becomes dry. Care must be taken while handling this plant! Its sap is so caustic that it can burn the skin.

Dracaena (Dracaena marginata): This plant is commonly grown in water as Chinese lucky bamboo. It is a variety of Dracaena braunii. Others like corn plant, D. fragrans, and Song of India, D. reflexa, are good choices. Sections of the cane can be rooted and grown in water, but support is essential for these top-heavy plants. The only thing to be careful with is harsh water. Purified or distilled water, with no added minerals is best. If using tap water, give it 24-hours in a bowl before using it so the chemicals evaporate. As far as watering it goes, top it up as needed and change the water if it gets smelly.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii): Pot up divisions or use an entire plant growing in a pot. The roots tend to become overcrowded, so to keep it healthy, take a mature Peace Lily out of its pot. Swish the roots around a sink or basin filled with lukewarm water because cold water might be a shock to the system and get rid of every bit of soil. Get it washed until the roots are clearly seen. Take a knife and clear away the offshoots from the roots and the crown, keeping up to four leaves intact, then add to the mason jar. One thing to remember with these is to use fresh water and change it weekly. The plants roots will soak up the nutrients from the water. The more it is replenished with fresh water, the more nourishment the plant gets.

Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum): Dainty heart-leaved philodendrons, as well as the large, split-leaved types do equally well in water. Take 6-8-inch cuttings of growing tips from the parent plant’s stem, ¼-inch below the leaf node. Keep 2-3 leaves intact and discard the rest. Place the stem in the mason jar, making sure all the nodes are in the water. Place pebbles in the container to prevent accidental tipping. Philodendrons survive at room temperature and are quite hardy, making them great little indoor water plants. The roots forever grow just in water, and the plants might need a clipping now and then. Apart from that, they are the easiest plant to grow and keep alive in water.

CHOOSING PLANTS FOR THE CONTAINER GARDEN:

• ENVIRONMENT: The most important key to a successful container garden is to make sure that all of the plants require similar sun or shade conditions and have the same water requirements.

• FLOWERS vs. FOLIAGE: Don’t rely on flowers alone. Long-lasting container combos tend to partner plants chosen for extended bloom time, usually annuals, with plants that add attractive foliage colors, shapes, and textures to the mix, often tender perennials. If one plant goes into a slump, another will pick up the slack. Keep it simple by limiting the selection to three types of plants.

• THRILLER, FILLER, SPILLER: Don't choose plants that are all the same height, shape, or texture. Thrillers are tall and upright, fillers are medium-high and mounding, and spillers are low and spreading to soften the container’s edge. Besides giving aesthetic contrast, this arrangement avoids competition for light and space.

• COLOR: Combining colors harmoniously is a subjective enterprise, and in practice most gardeners limit the palette to what’s available at the local garden center.

• COLOR PRINCIPLES:

Pinks, blues, and purples are nearly always compatible.

Hot yellows and oranges work well with reds that verge on purple or brown.

White, silver, pale yellow, and chartreuse go with everything.

• CHANGING THE PLANTS: It’s easy to add and subtract plants, even in midseason. Using a long knife, cut a circle around the root mass of the plant to be removed, pull out the cylinder of roots and potting mix and toss on the compost pile, and plug in the new plant. In a week or so, the replacement will look as if it had been in the container from the start.

PLANTING THE CONTAINER:

• PLANTING MIX: Start with a commercial, peat-based, soil-less mix, which holds a lot more water than garden soil, and add in a slow-release fertilizer. When filling the pot with the mix, leave an inch between the soil surface and the rim of the pot for water.

• PLANT PLACEMENT: If the container is going to stand against a wall or fence, put tall plants in the back where they won’t block light and air from shorter neighbors. If the container will be out in the open, place the tallest plants in the center.

• TOP DRESSING: Bare soil in pots is not desired, top dress around plant stems with gravel, crushed shells, attractive pebbles, or another quick-draining layer. This looks more "finished" and also helps retain moisture.

CONTAINER DESIGN & DISPLAY:

• Small pots dotted about the wider garden tend to look lost, so, keep these close to the house in places where there is a chance to stop and admire them.

• Use small pots, less than 12 inches in diameter, to create changing displays of small plants such as bulbs, herbs, sempervivum, and alpines. Single pots allow mixing and matching the display easily, according to what's in bloom.

• Different levels are the key to good group displays. Buy an inexpensive florist's stand to lift pots closer to eye level and create a composition of varying colors, textures and shapes.

• Turn empty pots on end and use them as stands or hide bricks or wooden blocks behind other pots.

• The repetition trick is popular with gardeners. Put an identical plant in identical pots such as an agave in a terra-cotta pot and use them evenly spaced to emphasize a linear feature, such as a low wall, a flight of steps, or the edge of a pool.

• Large containers work well anywhere. They are design features that can reinforce the permanent structure of the garden.

• Use a pair of clipped boxwood or bay to flank a doorway or entrance. Delineate a seating area with a living wall of laurel in troughs. Place pots of lavender on wide steps where the scent is caught as one walks past.

• Use containers as a low-key way of directing visitors around the garden. For example, to edge a worn patch of lawn where foot traffic is not desired, direct the eye to seating or pathways.

• Use terra-cotta saucers under pots where possible to prevent staining surfaces. Large saucers can be a feature in themselves. Place a layer of attractive pebbles in the saucer and stand the plant on these. This way collected water won't rot roots and will raise humidity levels around the plant.

CHOOSING THE BEST LOCATION: The location of the container garden is the determining factor for the type of containers used, as well as the types of plants put in. Check the sunlight exposure of the area being used for the container garden. If it gets over 4 hours of direct sunlight per day, use plants that can handle full sun. Shady areas are great for shade plants, and even some part sun plants.

FLOWERS FOR THE CONTAINER GARDEN: ANNUALS: There is no better way to decorate the outdoor areas used the most in the warmer months than with colorful and beautiful annuals. A few containers full of blooms is all it takes to transform the look and feel of any outdoor living space, setting the mood for entertaining, relaxing, and enjoying the outdoors. Whether it's a patio, porch, balcony, poolside, or fire-pit seating area, single plants and collections make your outdoor spaces feel like home.

Winged Begonia (Begonia semperflorens cultorum): are tough and drought-resistant and are known for clean foliage and prolific blooms. Colors hold best in afternoon shade, but they tolerate full sun, too. This is a self-cleaning plant, so the flowers drop off as they fade, and there is never a need to deadhead!


Begonias are a tender perennial that is usually grown as an annual. The blooms are white, pink or red atop shiny foliage, and they are present spring through frost. Begonias require light full sun to full shade and are cold hardy in USDA zones 11 to 12.

Coleus (Coleus scutellariodes): is so versatile! The beautiful leaves make it interesting enough to grow as a single specimen or with loads of other annuals. It's a fast grower, so start with small plants. If the plant grows too tall at the end of the summer, pinch it back.

Coleus is a tender perennial that is usually grown as an annual. The leaves come in shades of green, yellow, orange, red, pink and black, and many have fancy markings. The flowers are very insignificant and come in blue or white. Coleus flowers all summer and fall and require light full sun to full shade. Coleus is cold hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11.

Geranium (Pelargonium hortorum): love the heat and don’t mind getting a bit dry, which makes them fantastic container plants. They come in a wide range of flower colors that are tulip, rosebud, or cactus flowered. Geraniums give a traditional planting a twist. But don’t forget the foliage! Many geraniums have a “zone” marked off on the center of each leaf.


Geraniums are a tender perennial that is usually grown as annual. The blooms are white, lavender, pink, orange, or red, and they flower from spring to fall. Geraniums require light full sun and are cold hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11.

New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri): It doesn’t get any easier than New Guinea impatiens; just plant them, keep them watered, and enjoy the show until frost finally zaps them. They are self-cleaning and drop their spent blooms without any deadheading. Shade and adequate watering are very important. Their fleshy stems and leaves droop the instant the soil gets dry. They’ll perk back up as soon as they get more moisture, however, getting too dry too often will stress them, and cause fewer flowers and sparse foliage.


New Guinea Impatiens are tender perennials that are usually grown as an annual. The blooms are shades of lavender, purple, pink, red, orange, and white, and are present from spring to frost. New Guinea Impatiens require very light full sun to full shade, and they are cold hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.

Sweet Potato Vine (Ipomoea batatas): Cascades of burgundy, brown, gold, or variegated leaves make this tender perennial popular. Occasionally snip the tips of the stems back a couple of inches to keep the vine under control. It grows quickly, so start with a small plant and reap big rewards in no time.


Sweet Potato Vine is a tender perennial that is usually grown as an annual. The leaves present spring through fall. Sweet Potato Vine requires light full sun to part shade and is cold hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11.
















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