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Top Container Gardening Mistakes

Or, in other words, what NOT to do…

  1. Fill your pots with dirt wherever it’s convenient for you. I did this. Once. Things like potting benches sound quaint, but they’re not ideal for medium or large containers. If you are filling a big pot, it is much easier to put the pot where you want it, then drag over the soil and fill up the pot in place. This saves you from having to lug a heavy pot all over the place. Bags of soil are almost always easier to maneuver than heavy pots. If you must move your pots around, try filling the bottom with crumpled plastic bottles.
  2. You should fill the bottom of your pot with broken pieces of terra cotta pots. I have never done this. I don’t know what the purpose is, but you don’t need to save up random bits of broken crockery. I’ve seen some sources recommend the broken pieces of crockery help improve drainage. Doing so seems rather counterintuitive. Terra cotta is clay. It absorbs water. Also, flat pieces of the pot could totally block the drainage holes. Needless to say, my containers all have healthy, good looking plants in them, and their drainage holes are naked.
  3. Water your pots every day. Unless it is very hot outside and the pot in question is very small, you almost never need to water plants in containers every day. It’s better to check the soil before deciding whether to water. A good general rule of thumb (although this varies from plant to plant) is to wait until the top two inches of soil are totally dry before watering again. If you don’t know the specific requirements of a particular plant, try the two inches rule and watch the plant to see if it shows signs of being over or under watered. Adjust accordingly.
  4. It’s wrong to throw a plant out. My husband gets upset if I throw out a plant that isn’t 126% dead. I, however, think if you’ve given a plant your best shot and it is almost certainly on the path of dying, then there is no point having an ugly garden. Admit your failures, learn from them, and move on.
  5. A good way to save money on plants is to buy weak or sick plants from the discount bin. More often than not, those plants are beyond saving. So unless you got the plant for mere pennies, the time, effort and resources you put into saving a plant is not worth it. Not to mention, if the plant dies, you have to go out and buy another plant to replace it. You’re also risking infecting your existing plants with whatever ails the sick plant.
  6. Dirt is dirt. Buy whatever is cheapest. All dirt is not created equal. First of all, not all dirt is meant to be used in containers. Some of what you see at your garden center is top soil, meant for amending dirt in a traditional garden. Second, never use dirt from the garden in your pots. It almost never drains fast enough for containers and you’re probably scooping up pests and diseases in addition to soil. Third, poor quality potting soils result in poor looking containers. I bought a cheap potting soil this past year and it compacted and didn’t drain well and the plants growing in those pots weren’t as healthy as my other pots.

Have you ever gotten bad gardening advice?

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