Senior Gardening Tips

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What is the difference between ´annuals´ and ´perennials´ plants?

Annuals or Perennials

Keep in mind, when selecting plants for container gardens, that an 'annual' plant lasts only one year (or growing season) whereas the 'perennial' lasts (or is active) through the year or for many years to come. In most cases, I prefer the perennials.

   
Will hibiscus plants do well in containers?

Hibiscus, beautiful hibiscus!

Hibiscus can easily be grown in containers; in fact, they have become my most treasured of container plants. These especially need good drainage in whatever container used, and use of a loose soil (1/4 perlite) is important. A good factor, from the Exotic Hibiscus website, is "they need good drainage. Most of our customers up north put a pot inside another pot (sic. with gravel in bottom to raise off water) to make sure the roots are not too wet." As the hibiscus plant grows, you may want to transplant to a larger container.

   
How can I enjoy beautiful plants/flowers without all the work?

Learn the easy way

Container gardening is especially an easy and handy way for Seniors to maintain the beauty of a garden without all the work. You can avoid all that 'bending' and strain by putting container on table when planting. Once started, the upkeep is much easier; you can move your plants, flowers, herbs, vegetables at your leisure; you can have a few or many plants, depending on your needs or wants; no 'hoeing' allowed here (isn't that nice!). I started my container garden when I filled in my unused swimming pool (too much upkeep, seldom used, anymore - see my article on this). These gardens also attract butterfly. You can have your garden on an apartment balcony or patio, your back yard, or anywhere your ideas carry you. Plant and ENJOY!

   
How can I avoid standing water in container saucers?

Container-saucers; standing water

Consider turning your garden container-saucers up-side-down. This will insure good drainage, and avoid standing water...where mosquitoes can breed and multiply; not a good thing! At the least, empty the water from saucers every evening during summer months.

   
How can I enjoy beautiful plants/flowers without all the work?

Soil for your container plants

ALWAYS buy potting soil mix for your container garden. I can't emphasize this enough: ALWAYS potting soil, NEVER 'ground' dirt. The potting soil is formulated for root aeration and moisture retention - a must for houseplants and Container Gardens!! I usually buy the 16-17 lb. size; and like Proterra or MiracleGrow (this latter even offers soil with a fertilizer already in it), which can be found at Targets, Home Depot, KMart, etc. I find the packaged soil cheaper at these locations than at specialty garden stores.

   
What are some plants I could grow to attract butterflies?

Attract butterflies

If you would like to attract butterflies to your container garden, try these plants:
Lantana - a low-growing perennial bush with clusters of small, colorful blooms.
Scabiosa (pincushion flower) - Blooms, on tall, slender stalks, are usually pink or lavender.
Fennel - Perennial that has slender stems and clusters of yellow flowers.

   
How should I ´plan´ my container garden?

Planning the Container Garden

When planning the container garden consider the area you have available: if small area, use one large container and variety of smaller ones; if medium size area, two large containers and variety of medium to small ones. If unlimited space use large, medium and small assortment. A variety of floral colors or different shades of one color may be a good choice. But plan ahead, draw a schematic with colored pencils if necessary, and you'll reap beautiful rewards.

   
What size containers should I buy for my C-Garden?

Watch for drainage holes

Most all plant containers will have drainage holes in the bottom. For 'regular' pots, you'll want to buy the saucer to set them in (if not attached). But, I've found some great 'buys' on containers that had no drainage hole. I make them: set an ice-pick on electric burner (or gas flame) on your stove, just long enough to heat it, then slowly puncture (pressure)from inside the container in the bottom (at least 3 - 4 punctures, depending on size of container). Before adding soil, place a shard (piece of broken clay pot or saucer) over the drainage - or even small rocks, this will keep the soil from draining out with the water. NOTE: my ice-pick has a wooden handle; be careful not to burn your hand when using the heated pick. ALWAYS have drainage in your containers to avoid root-rot and for healthier growth!

   
What soil should I use for my Container Garden?

Beautiful flowers/plants

A partial list of flowers/plants to grow in containers: begonias, gerbera daisies, calla lilies, ferns, caladiums, day lilies, hibiscus, pansies, ornamental kale (winter), tomatoes, green peppers, ornamental pepper plants, strawberries. Just be sure the container is adequate for each plant.

   
What is a late fall plant with lots of color?

Little faces watching you

Don't overlook planting pansies in late fall for long enjoyment. Great variety of colors. I enjoy those 'little faces' greeting me on my front porch!

   
What soil should I use for my Container Garden?

Soil Conditioning

Mixing a handful (or so) of Sphagnum moss to your potting soil increases moisture retention and gives
heavy aeration, thus preventing root rot and plant diseases.

   
How can I best gro green peppers in containers?

Green peppers

Green peppers, as with all container plants, should begin from small plants (not seeds). These are easily grown in medium to large containers, depending on the amount of plants you choose. Two to three plants (in 20"+ container) will produce a goodly amount of the peppers, which are 'warm season' vegetables and enjoy sun, and continued watering until harvesting. A good vegetable fertilizer is recommended.

   
Should I start from ´seeds´ when making a container garden?

Seeds or plants

For container gardening we will want to buy semi-mature or mature plants. Unless you want to give away most of your 'seedlings', there is no need for buying seeds and starting from scratch. Buy plants, not seeds.

   
How can I use my sweet basil herbs?

Herbs - Sweet Basil

Sweet basil is a wonderful aromatic herb that can be used to enhance recipes of meats, tomato soup, dried leaves added to olive oil with garlic for a healthy salad dressing. Grows easily in containers.

   
How can I plant flowers in a wire hanging basket?

'Lining' a wire basket

Long fiber sphagnum moss is ideal for lining hanging or stand-alone wire baskets. Moisten the moss (in a bucket of water), squeeze out excess water, then layer around the inside of basket, pressing slightly to strengthen the layer. Leave a well in the middle to add potting soil and plants.

   
How can I enjoy beautiful plants/flowers without all the work?

Late-Fall/Winter beauty

Ornamental kale (cabbage) is a beautiful display for late autumn/winter growing, but don't expose to cold, north winds. Plant in wide, not too deep containers, and plant in 'southern' exposure. If planting young plants, leave room for growth.

   
Can I plant chile peppers in containers?

Serrano Chile Peppers

These slim Serrano Peppers, explode with wildly hot flavor. Fruits are 2-1/4 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter, medium thin walls, green maturing to red. Plants grow 30-36 inches tall with good leafy cover, so add 'stakes' to your container pot. Harvest in 75-80 days. USES: Use the peppers green or red. Perfect for chili sauce, salsa, pickles, hot pepper vinegar, chili beans, guacomale. The peppers can be easily dried. SUGGESTION: Plant a variety of herbs to add flavor to hot pepper sauce and relish.

   
What type should I use for hanging baskets for plants?

Types of baskets

Two types of hanging baskets are: wire baskets, plastic containers. Either are good, depending on your needs. If bringing basket in-doors during winter, I prefer the plastic containers...less water-dripping.

   
How much water should I give my plants?

Rule-of-thumb for watering

A basic rule-of-thumb for watering plants is: if leaves droop, you need to water more; if leaves yellow, slow up on the water.

   
How can I keep my container-garden plants healthy?

Keeping plants healthy

With all plants, whether green foliage or blooming, you will have healthier plants if you maintain a schedule for watering and fertilizing. This maintenance will enable plants to be more tolerant of insect attacks. Read directions on the fertilizer bag, and never over fertilize or over water. Good pot drainage is a must.

   
Can I grow garlic in containers?

Growing Garlic

Garlic is another vegetable/herb that can be grown in containers. As they develop in growth, you might want to add stakes. Here is a link for all you need to know about Growing Garlic. Garlic adds wonderful flavor to most any food, and is also good for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels!

   
Should I buy plants for sun or shade exposure?

Sun or shade for plants

When buying plants for the container garden, take into consideration the amount of sun or shade your area affords; plants need either full sun, semi-sun/shade, or full shade. Check the 'tab' included with plants.

   
What is the best time to cut flowers from my container garden?

Cutting the flowers

The best time to cut your beautiful container garden flowers is in the morning after dew has time to dry, or in the evening before dew sets in - never in heat of day. To ensure longer life, cut flowers just before they mature, when not quite open.

   
How can I enjoy beautiful plants/flowers without all the work?

Watch for size

Depending on the size or type of plant you want, the container you buy is important. It is better to buy a larger container and include more than one plant in it, than to have too small a container. Get an idea of the plant(s) you want before buying the container. 'Tho don't pass up that great sale of any container you see...you'll find a way to use it!

   
What type should I use for hanging baskets for plants?

A beautiful fern

There is nothing more beautiful than a cascading Boston fern in a hanging container (wire or plastic). These are easy to grow, will re-grow in spring after the winter cold, or can be brought indoors. Careful, tho..they will messily shed most of the leaves!

   
What plants can I keep in a basement or cellar during the winter?

Over-Wintering Plants

During "Indian Summer" weather, think ahead to over-wintering some plants and saving seed from others for next year's garden. Geranium and begonia will over-winter in a cellar or basement just fine in their own pots. Save the seed only from marigold, cockscomb and similar plants. And don't forget you can keep Wandering Jew and coleus in a sunny window to enjoy all winter long!

   
How can I best grow tomato plants in containers?

Tomatoes

Easily grown in containers, tomatoes can be enjoyed into the fall. Utilizing a 20" container, two plants can be grown with the aid of a wire cage placed into container just around and within the rim and about 4" into soil. Tomato plants require a good fertilizer applied at planting and every 30 days, and continued watering (do not let soil become too dry!). Plant needs lots of early-day sun.

   
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Joe Wallace