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Originally published in Seasonal Guide, April 25, 2013
Decks alive!
Bring outdoor spaces to life with containers
by Caroline Spear, Penobscot Bay Press Green Thumbs columnist

Photo by Caty Frazier Order prints of selected PBP photos.

PDF Document
Spring container planting guide
This chart gives you a wide range of choices for container-grown plants.

Life outdoors in warm weather often features our decks, patios and porches where we relax, lounge in spare moments and share time with family, perhaps preparing a meal on the grill.

You can make these areas sing with color, greenery and edibles with container-grown plants. You can put plants where you want them, move into and out of the sun as they require and, perhaps best of all, there’s no weeding. Create color schemes or go wild with annual and perennial bloom. Anchor the summer plants with perennial shrubbery in large containers.

For your plants to be at their best in containers, the key is not to use garden soil since it is too dense for pots and will compact, restricting or suffocating roots. Instead, purchase potting soil or make your own: combine 20 quarts potting soil with 20 quarts compost; add 1/3 cup each of blood meal for nitrogen, greensand for potassium and colloidal phosphate for phosphorus. These elements will fertilize the plants. To help keep soil moist, use polymer crystals in the bottom half of the container according to package directions. The crystals absorb water and release it slowly as the soil dries.

Clay pots are heavy and dry out quickly. If you like the look of them, put your plants in plastic pots and then set them in the clay one. Fill the space between with sand or sphagnum moss to hold moisture.

Allocate at least six inches deep and wide to each plant in a container. Crowding makes containers look good when you plant but doesn’t allow for best growth or vegetable production.

Check daily to see if your containers need water. A large container will dry out more slowly than a small one. Fertilize every two weeks with liquid fertilizer or fish/seaweed emulsion. Timed-release fertilizer pellets can also be used.

This chart gives you a wide range of choices for container-grown plants.

Photo by Caty Frazier
All colors seem to go together in nature

All colors seem to go together in nature, from the purples of petunias and potted lavender to the orange of Iceland poppies (foreground) and Asiatic lilies (background).

Photo by Caroline Spear