Home & Garden

Tips on how to prepare containers for planting

Consider soil, drainage, placement

(File photo) Brenda Swanson pots plants as she makes an arrangement last month at her home business Deeply Rooted in Shueyville. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
(File photo) Brenda Swanson pots plants as she makes an arrangement last month at her home business Deeply Rooted in Shueyville. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

With the wide variety of plants currently available, whether vegetables, herbs or flowers, it is time to prepare pots for planting.

Selecting the right container is important. The container should have drain holes in the bottom. The larger the container, the better it will retain moisture, which will result in less need for watering. On the negative side, more support will be needed for large containers in hanging baskets.

Once containers are selected, empty the pots of last year’s potting soil. This soil is probably devoid of nutrients and may be harboring disease or pests, to the detriment of the new plants. The pot should be washed and rinsed using 10 percent bleach solution, meaning 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.

You may consider mixing your own potting soil. Mixing one-third compost, one-third peat and one-third vermiculite will produce a very light and water retentive potting soil which will support the growth of both flowers and vegetables. Purchasing potting soil is another option.

The drain hole in the bottom should be covered to prevent the soil from being washed out when watering.

Cover the hole with a material that will allow water to flow through but retain the soil. This could be a coffee filter or fabric such as a piece of a cotton T-shirt or fleece. This is not necessary if you are using a container that already has an attached dish on the bottom.

If your container is very large, you may want to consider filling the bottom of your container with empty plastic bottles or Styrofoam peanuts. If you use Styrofoam peanuts, bag them in old mesh onion bags so that when you empty your pots next year, the Styrofoam is contained and not blowing all over the neighborhood. Filling the bottom will result in a lighter container and means you can use less potting soil.

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Next, place your container where you want it for the season, place a drainage dish under it and fill it with potting soil. Plant desired plants according to the directions.

Remember that the soil you are using is very light and may compact, so you will want to start the season with the soil only an inch from the top of your container.

During the growing season, you will want to keep the soil loose by poking holes into the soil with an old screwdriver or straight stick. Do this before watering.

Whether you planted flowers, vegetables or herbs, enjoy watching your newly created container this summer, and happy watering.

l For gardening questions, call the Linn County Extension Master Gardener Hortline at (319) 447-0647.

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