Posts Tagged ‘Soil’

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Six Steps to Healthy Plants

April 12, 2012

Dear Friends:  Just as it had happened a couple of weeks ago, my computer, browser, dial-up connection, or ALL THREE has been as slow as a slug crossing the garden path—thus no posting until this evening. I had logged in many times off and on since Monday, then waited an hour or so hoping the posting page (where I upload the articles and photos to publish) would open, but no luck. While I apologize, I also ask that you understand this could happen again. Lately, it seems to happen more often. If I had tech skills, the slug (or slugs) causing all the problems would never make it across the path. Instead, it would see the bottom of my old garden shoe.

Whether you’re a novice, passionate or occasional gardener, by following a few steps you can keep your plants looking their best. These simple effective steps introduce you to the basics of healthy plants that will reward you for years to come.

  1. Zone:  Select plants for your zone by buying from local nurseries. Utilize the knowledge of nursery persons, neighbors, garden club members, cooperative extension agents, and master gardeners.
  2. Size:  Minimize pruning by placing plants and trees where they have ample growing space for maturity, away from buildings and overhead utility lines. Avoid overcrowding plants so they don’t have to fight for nutrients.
  3. Exposure:  Sufficient light is one of the most important elements to plant growth. Improper light duration and magnitude can stunt growth, burn foliage, or even kill plants and trees.
  4. Temperature:  Select plants that will survive in your areas lowest winter temperatures. Most plant tags provide cold/heat zone data listing minimum hardiness and heat tolerance temperatures.
  5. Water:  It’s no secret plants can’t live without moisture. When and how much water a plant needs will vary according to the variety and soil type. Don’t put water-loving plants and trees in an area with little water or drought resistant plants in soil with poor drainage. Follow a regular water schedule using timers wherever possible.
  6. Nutrition: Nutrients is crucial to plant health. Your soil’s texture and fertility will determine how much and what you need to add for moisture retention, proper drainage, or organic material. A simple soil test kit (available at most nurseries) will provide data on your soil’s composition. The three main ingredients plants need are: Nitrogen (N) promotes vigorous leaf growth. Phosphorus (P) encourages good development of roots, flowers, and fruit. Potassium (K) promotes cell division and strong stems.

Follow the above tips and your plants will give you satisfying results year after year.

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The Basics: Repotting into a Larger Container

April 4, 2012

Supplies:  Existing potted plant, larger container, potting mix, broken potsherds or packing peanuts, trowel, blunt knife or hand weeder, snips, water

1.  Select a new or repurposed container one – two sizes larger than the existing one.

2.  Tilt the container and carefully pull the plant out of the pot by grasping the trunk just above the top soil. If the plant doesn’t move, slide a blunt knife down the sides to loosen the roots and try again. When necessary, as seen in photo to the left, break the pot by likely tapping it with a hammer. Be sure to wear protective glasses. Slice plastic containers open with a knife.

Tip:  Repot when the plant’s soil is on the dry side (slightly moist). The plant will be lighter and easier to lift out of its container. Never repot saturated plants, as the roots will separate from the soil.

3.  Carefully loosen the roots with a blunt knife or hand weeder. Trim off broken roots and cut back extra long roots by a third.

4.  Cover the drainage hole with broken potsherds or packing peanuts.

Tip:  1) If reusing an old container, scrub the inside with detergent or four parts water to one-part bleach to kill harmful organisms. Rinse well. 2) If your container doesn’t have a hole, drill one hole in small to medium containers and two holes for very large pots.

5.  Place fresh potting mix about a third up in the new container. Check the height by gently positioning the plant on the mix. The crown of the plant should be one to two inches below the top of the pot. This will allow space for watering and eliminate overflow.

Tip:  To absorb excess water and gradually release moisture to the roots use moisture control potting mix.

6.  Once you have established the proper height, center the plant spreading out the roots.

7.  Add fresh potting mix around the sides, gently working it down with a trowel or hand weeder making sure there are no air pockets. If your container is tall, use a thin stick or heavy-duty non-bendable wire. Be careful not to compact the mix.

8.  Set container on risers and water well. Keep out of hot summer sun for at least a week until the plant(s) can recoup from transplant shock.

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Soil Analysis: From a Bird’s Eye View

March 26, 2012

While my husband kept his eyes on the road during a Sunday Drive, I took these photos through the windshield

Amazing what the soil, and nature, can produce without our help.

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March Gardening Madness

March 5, 2012

The bridge between winter and spring

March is a maddening interval for gardeners. Oftentimes, the soil is still too wet or cold to work. Gardeners go stir crazy itching to dig into the soil, amend beds, and plant until his or her body aches from bending over. Flipping through garden catalogs and magazines only worsens the desire to get close to nature. My solution is to repot, replace potting mix, or create new plantings in unused or new containers.

Conditions for repotting:

Start by checking the existing potted plants around your landscape to see if the plants are root bound or if the mix has hardened, a sure sign it no longer allows good oxygen circulation needed for healthy roots. There are three ways to check the condition of the soil in potted plants:  1) look for roots reaching outside the drainage hole; 2) if the soil is moist, gently lift the plant out of the pot. If there are more roots than soil, it’s time to repot; 3) stick a hand trowel into the soil six inches deep to see if the soil is compacted or fluffy.

Type of outdoor potting mix

These days, most gardeners can’t afford the ‘best’ potting mix but if possible avoid purchasing the ‘cheapest’. Choose an all-purpose blend of organic matter like peat moss, garden loam, or manure, and perlite. Together these will provide proper drainage and oxygen flow to the roots.

Now comes the fun part

Before heading to your local nursery, note the size pot required of each plant being repotted and how much potting mix you’ll need for this task or if you’re simply replacing the old mix. If you’re starting from scratch select plants with same light and water requirements. When freezing temperatures is a danger, protect frost sensitive plants.

Planting up a pot or two will help diminish the stir-crazy itch of waiting to cross the bridge from winter and spring.

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