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continued care for container gardening

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general continued care


The various types of insects and diseases that are common to any vegetable garden can attack vegetables grown in containers. Plants should be periodically inspected for the presence of foliage-feeding and fruit-feeding insects as well as the occurrence of diseases.


Protect plants from very high heat caused by light reflection from pavement. Move them to a cool spot or shade them during the hottest part of the day. Move plants to a sheltered location during severe rain, hail or windstorms, and for protection from fall frosts.

Fertilizing & Repotting


Seasonal plants such as annual flowers and vegetables will need more feeding than slower-growing containerized trees and shrubs. Annuals grow quickly, exhausting nutrients in the soil. No matter what kind of container plant you have, apply fertilizer only during the growing season.


Liquid fertilizer is easy to use for baskets, window boxes, and smaller containers. Use an all-purpose flower and garden fertilizer. If you are growing mostly flowers and fruiting plants, a fertilizer with a high potash content (for example, a 10-10-27) works well. Seaweed extracts and fish fertilizers are good if you want to use organic fertilizers. You probably will need to fertilize every two or three weeks, but follow the instructions for the specific fertilizer you select.


For larger, permanent container plantings of trees and shrubs, fertilizing should be light, because you don't want the plants to grow so vigorously that they outgrow their containers. Replenish these plants by top-dressing them in spring with an inch or two of new soil. Add a dose of fertilizer at the same time. Controlled-release, polymer-coated granule fertilizers work well for this.

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Reviving a wilted plant


You can revive a wilting plant by setting the pot in a tray of moist gravel. If the plant is so dry that the soil has pulled away from the sides of the container, it takes extra effort to rewet it.


The best way to do this is to submerge the entire pot in water for a half hour or so. When bubbles stop rising to the top, the rootball is saturated.


If your container is so large that these methods aren't practical, wet the soil w/small successive doses of water until you're sure the rootball is saturated.


If you apply water all at once, it'll run down the sides of the pot, missing the rootball entirely & the plant will continue to suffer.


If you find that water is routinely running down the sides of the rootball & not penetrating it, use a watering can & add a surfactant to the water.


Garden surfactants are wetting agents that reduce the surface tension of water droplets, improving water penetration.


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To determine whether your plant is root bound, turn the container upside down or on its side and gently remove the plant. Examine the roots. Unless your plant is large, heavy, and hard to handle, the best time to do this is after watering.


To repot a root bound plant, prepare a container one size larger than the current one, and fill the new container with soil. Take the plant, still in its old container, and press the plant and container into the new soil and container. Then lift the old container (with plant) out of the new soil, and you will have molded a spot exactly the right size for your plant. Remove the plant from its old container and cut any circling roots from the root ball before planting. Water the plant immediately after repotting.

Repotting trees & shrubs


If you are growing a tree or large shrub in a container, you may reach a point where it's no longer practical to continue moving the plant to larger containers. However, to keep the plant vigorous, you must still repot it when it becomes rootbound and you must prune the roots at the same time.


To do this, remove the plant from the container. With a pencil, screwdriver, or other sharp instrument, gently remove shards of pottery, rock, and old compacted soil from the rootball. Cut off dead, diseased, or problem roots with a sharp knife. Place the plant in a new container of the same size, or the old container after it has been cleaned and disinfected. Gradually work in new soil mix, watering lightly as you go to distribute the new soil around plant roots.


In spring, top-dress any plant that is not transplanted at least once a year, using an inch or two of soil mix.


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