One of the questions we get from viewers all the time, especially with regards to planting large containers, is what is the correct way of basically setting the container up for success. Eric would like to mention a few tips that can really help people have more success with containers. What Eric likes to do is to put a piece of screen in the bottom of the container. That basically just keeps our potting mix from coming out the bottom of the hole. (In this case in place of screen we used a product named Drain Smart.) Also you don't need the volume of soil provided in the whole container. One doesn’t need to fill the entire container with soil, the root systems on most plants are not going to travel three feet down. And in many cases, the root systems with plants are going to be in the top 8 to maybe 12 inches, if they're quite stressed, maybe they go down a little bit deeper. But this is a really, really vertical planter. So what Eric likes to do is fill it up as much as a third or even more with gravel, or use packing peanuts. They don't typically break down and it's a great way to up cycle the packing peanuts plus it also makes your container a little bit lighter if you're going to move it around. So in a container like this, you put your screen or Smart Drain in the bottom, run packing peanuts up to about halfway, possibly further then fill the rest of it in with a premium potting mix. And the potting mix is really important. In choosing a premium potting mix, there are three things we need to think about - air holding, water holding, nutrient holding capacity. In some cases it makes sense to have the moisture retention crystals. If you're not able to water your plants all the time, those can definitely help. Then Eric would recommend a slow release fertilizer either in your potting mix, or of course, on the surface of the soil, as you're planting your plants, many of those can last for four to six, even eight months and it really helps you out from the get go.
By Dan Heims, president, Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Terra Nova Nurseries, Inc.
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