Q. I was wondering if there is a trick to container gardening? I have been using potting soil, along with plant food, and my plants keep wilting. What am I doing wrong?
A. I am not sure what is going on in your case but container gardening can give you some flexibility in growing things but it can also be a bit trickier because of the limited soil volume, how water moves through a container soil and finding or creating the right environment.
Start with a container that is fairly large. Small soil volumes are difficult to keep moist during our desert heat. If the soil dries out, water will flow down the inside of the container wall and not wet the soil properly. If this is unmanageable, put a smaller container inside a large one to give it some shade.
|Large containers have more soil volume which holds more water and help keep the soil cooler.|
When wetting soil in a very dry container, use a wetting agent with the applied water. A tablespoon of liquid detergent in a bucket of water will work. Add the detergent after the bucket is full of water and mix it.
Always make sure the water can drain from the container directly out of the bottom to keep salts moving through the soil and out of the container. When watering, add about 20% extra water (1/5 of the volume applied) to keep salts moving through the soil or they will build and damage the plants.
At every planting time, replenish 1/4 to 1/3 of the soil volume with new soil. Make sure the soil is good quality. There is plenty of junk being sold locally and in bags as well.
Shade the container (not the plant) from direct sun during the day time. You can do this by double potting it.
|Houseplant moisture meter|
Use an inexpensive soil moisture meter for houseplants to give you a rough idea if the soil is wet or dry. Otherwise lift or push the container. Containers get much lighter when it is time to water.
Fertilize lightly once every one to two months during the growing season.
If you have trees in containers, gently lift the tree from the container every three to four years, prune the roots, replace the soil, prune the tree to reduce its size and to bring it back to scale and replant it.