My potted garden

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Winter and gardening seem incompatible? Why not put yourself in indoor gardening? The culture containing it is within the reach of everyone. There is no need to pass the rototiller, weed or lift excessively heavy weights. No need for a large lot either: a solarium, or a simple window sill will do. This type of gardening allows you to use the containers of your choice; you can even build them to fit perfectly to your taste and the space you have.   

Before you rush to the garden center to buy flower pots and seedlings, take the time to plan. Determine your goals and realistically determine how many plants you can grow. Although the pot culture does not require much work, she still asks for regular care.

You will need to fertilize and water your plants regularly. In some cases, you will also have to regularly remove withered flowers so that the plant continues to bloom. You will also need to consider the longevity of plants: some will live only a few weeks containing (eg, spring bulbs), while others will spend several years. including shrubs, trees and perennials.

You will also need to consider the specific light, heat and moisture requirements of the various plants you want to grow. In this respect, the plants containing them do not differ from those grown in the ground.

When choosing your containers, do not limit yourself to what you are offered in garden centers. Any container having adequate dimensions and the necessary strength to retain land and water may be suitable. Have fun creating original arrangements using, for example, an old shoe or an old boot, dishes, baskets, etc. You can also buy planters made of various materials, and of various sizes: it goes from the small pot intended to receive a single fat plant to the massive vase which will receive a shrub or a small tree.

Soil is the key to success
For gardening, soil is the key to success, and it’s just as true for growing in container crops. But think twice before rushing into the yard to pick up a few shovels of earth you fill your beautiful new vase: the garden or yard is heavy and often contains stones, which may weigh down your vase so much that you will not be able to move it. In addition, this type of soil is not necessarily fertile; or it is sandy or clay, which is not suitable for the culture containing it. Finally, it may contain weed seeds or be contaminated by microscopic fungi or bacteria that may transmit diseases to plants.

To prevent these problems, obtain soil-less potting soil: usually peat moss or sphagnum moss with vermiculite, perlite or sand added to facilitate the flow of peat. ‘water. This type of potting mix may also contain a late-acting fertilizer as well as water retention crystals, which reduces the frequency of watering.

Choose the right plants
The choice of plants for growing in containers is as wide as for growing in the ground: vegetables, herbs, bulbs, annuals, perennials, ground cover plants, creepers and shrubs, shrubs and trees, all suitable.

However, some plants are easier to grow in containers than others. For example, there are new varieties of petunias that do not require the withered flowers to be removed as often as the old varieties were to be, an asset for those who do not have a lot of time to devote to this activity. It must also be known that some plants do not support transplantation and may live for several weeks, or even die. Plants that are particularly suitable for growing in containers are often grouped in the same section at the garden center or in the same pages of the nursery catalog.

Too often, we forget to take into account the color or texture of the foliage, especially if different plants are grouped together in a planter. By adding a plant with unusually colored foliage, such as a coleus or sweet potato plant, you will create an interesting visual effect. Or, add plants to the foliage or spiny foliage.

What should you consider
• Flowering period. Does the plant bloom abundantly over a long time or does it bloom only at some point in the season?
• Foliage. Does it have a color, texture or interesting shape?
• Harbor. Is the plant compact and shrubby, so you do not have to guard it?
• Tolerance to drought. Can it support dry soil without wilting immediately?
• Transplantation. Can she bear being displaced and transplanted?
• Specific characteristics. Apart from flowers or foliage, does it have other attractive elements, for example seeds, berries or colored stems that will prolong the aesthetic pleasure you get from it?

If you do not mind removing the withered flowers, do not worry about choosing varieties whose flowers fall naturally. However, keep in mind that annuals stop blooming when they begin to seed. If you want a longer flowering, cut the flowers before they go to seed.

At the garden center, look for compact, well-stocked plants that will make pretty bushes without you having to pinch or cut them. Check the roots: if they come out of the pot, it is because the plant is cramped. In this case, it will settle more difficult and may never give good results.

Avoid buying plants that grow in pride, are etiolated or are in full bloom. Between two plants of the same variety, avoid choosing the one that seems to bloom prematurely: this may be the sign that she has been stressed. Plants with many flower buds that have not yet hatched will give you much more satisfaction, even if you have to wait a few days before seeing them bloom. Also, do not buy a plant that has yellowed, spotted or damaged foliage, or evidence of insect infestation, such as clusters of aphids on growing stems.

Planting and Care Tips
• Do not fill containers to the brim. Put potting soil up to about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the edge, allowing you to water your plants without doing too much water damage.
• It’s normal, you want fast results, but still resist the temptation to plant too tight. The annuals, in particular, grow rapidly and will soon fill all the gaps you have left. If there are too many plants in the same container, they may suffer from nutrient deficiencies or diseases.
• Put in a single container plants that require the same growing conditions and group the containers according to this same rule.
• If your plants, especially annuals, grow in pride, prune them to encourage both vigorous regrowth and flowering. Cut one-third of the stems to 1/3 of height rather than folding the plant entirely.
• To reduce the water requirements of the plants and, consequently, the chore of watering, move the containers closer to each other, which will have the effect of minimizing the evaporation, especially if the containers are made of unglazed earth or other porous materials.
• After planting, put mulch on the soil of the containers, which will reduce the frequency of watering.
• Every two weeks, fertilize the soil with a soluble fertilizer (organic or chemical) diluted in water.
• After flowering, discard bulbs that have grown in containers. The bulbs will have exhausted their reserves and will have little chance to bloom again the following year.

Plants for each season
Adapt your plantings to different seasons. Tear the plants that have finished their flowering, and replace them with others more adapted to the current season (for example, asters in the fall).

Once your gardening season is over, you can return your containers with their plants indoors for the winter or put potting soil and compost plants. Wash the containers in hot water and disinfect them with a solution of 1/4 cup (60 ml) of bleach diluted in one gallon (4 liters) of water. Let dry and store your containers until the following year.

Take notes and, if possible, photos of your plantings. You will be able to determine, among the plants you have grown, those that have worked well and those that have done less well. The following year, you may decide to redo the same plantations or try something else.

Dr. Monika Mathur

Ph.D Yale University

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