by Jeremy Wycherly
Putting the right kind of soil in your container garden can save you all kinds of headaches later on. When planting your seeds and starters in a container, use a quality soil that has equal portions of loamy soil, perlite and peat moss. The best place to find this kind of soil is at your local nursery. Here's a helpful hint when shopping at the local nursery for soil - don't waste your time reading the contents on the different bags of soil, go straight to the owner or store manager and ask what soil they use in their plants. Use the stuff the experts use!
If you decide to use soil from your back yard or some other source, be aware that if your soil has a high clay content, your plants will suffer from too much water. Because clay naturally doesn't drain well, and because containers don't drain well either - I think you get my point.
Another popular planting medium for containers and pots is what is called a "soil-less" mixture. These "soil-less" mixtures drain very well and allow adequate air to circulate around the roots of your plants. A word of advice regarding these mixtures: If you decide to use a "soil-less" mixture for your container, you WILL need to add a fertilizer. Mix in a complete fertilizer before planting and add fertilizer periodically throughout the growing season. If you don't want to hassle with adding fertilizer frequently, you can purchase a slow-release fertilizer; Osmocote is a good fertilizer that dissolves slowly and allows the fertilizer to feed the plant for several months. While slow release fertilizers are low maintenance, you're best fertilizer option is always a liquid type fertilizer.
Even when clean soil mixes are used in containers, weeds will undoubtedly appear during the course of a season. As winds blow and swirl around your balcony or patio, weed seeds will blow in and nestle in your container garden. Weeds should be removed just as you would in a normal in ground garden. If the weeds are growing so close to plants that pulling them might dislodge the plant roots, clip the weed off just below the crown. If you have loose soil and your weeds are nestled in at the base of your plant, give the weed a soft tug to see how it will or will not disturb your plant before you give it a good yank. As I said before, it may be best to just cut the top off the weed as low as you can, rather than pull it out and risk disrupting the fragile plant root system.
These few simple words of advice can give you the peace of mind that your efforts will contribute to allowing your tender plant to mature and bear fruit.
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