Container Makeovers

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We’re nearing the end of August, and both the garden and the gardener are… tired. This has been a long, hot, summer, and the entire state of Colorado is in a drought. The unending parade of 90+ degree days, unusual for our elevation, has left the plants bedraggled, the flowers faded, the leaves with crispy brown edges.

The large pots of color on our deck are the worst. The violas that looked so pretty in June are now covered with powdery mildew. In spite of what the seed packets promised, the cosmos and zinnias grew too tall, towering over the petunias, and the snapdragons stayed too short. My chard leaves are tunneled with leaf miners, and it’s nearly impossible to keep them sufficiently watered. (Memo to self—do not plant chard ‘Bright Lights’ in a container with more xeric annuals, no matter how colorful the stems or how many seedlings are left over after planting the veggie beds!)

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How to Grow a Houseplant: Water & Food

Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series on How to Grow a Houseplant. Part 1 covered light & temperature requirements, Part 3 will discuss containers and repotting.

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Water
The biggest problem most people have with growing container plants is watering. Ideally, the potting soil for your plant should have equal amounts of air and water trapped between its particles. It should be moist but not soggy.

Most people realize that letting plants dry out is a bad idea (unless you’re growing cactus). However, too much water can also cause wilting. Frequently, a novice gardener will interpret the limp leaves to mean the plant is thirsty, and water more. This nearly always proves fatal. What has actually happened is that the roots have suffocated from a lack of air. Dead roots can’t absorb water, so the plant wilts. More houseplants die from overwatering than from drought. Always check the soil first.

You can stick your finger into the potting mix, or buy a simple water meter that indicates how wet your plant is. Or, if it isn’t too big and heavy, you can simply lift the pot. A well-watered pot is heavy. If your plant feels like a light-weight, it’s time to water.

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Recycled “Greenscapes”

continer-whimsy-dbg-2008jun26-lah-461“Don’t throw that away!”

My family is used to my exhortations by now. Mom, the recycling nut. It’s true—I have a bin for metals and one for plastics, 1 through 7. Glass has its own container, next to the compost bucket. Worms eat my garbage. Paper and cardboard pile up in old laundry baskets (I’m recycling the baskets too). Still-usable discards go to the thrift stores, worn out clothes get used as rags. Not much ends up in the small trash can we lug to the curb every week.

As a gardener, I want to extend my recycling efforts to my yard. How can I avoid making new purchases for my garden?

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