This is typically the time of year when container gardens and hanging baskets start to look a little peaked and wimpy. I noticed the other day that mine at home are not as nice and full nor are they as vigorous as those at my office in the Gateway Learning Gardens (GLG).
The difference in this case is without a doubt fertilization practices. I don’t fertilize that much at home whereas, in our gardens, we have a regular fertilizer schedule.
The soils in containers and hanging baskets are usually soilless mixes which means that they don’t hold nutrients and require regular fertilization in order to look great all season.
At home, I use a slow-release granular fertilizer when I plant them in the spring and that’s about it. They don’t look too bad right now but the one thing I noticed is that the plants just aren’t as full nor are they as big as they are in the containers at the GLG.
The containers in the GLG are also given a slow-release fertilizer at the beginning of the season but we also push growth a little bit by fertilizing with a liquid more often. In fact, early in the season, we fertilize three times a week, at the same time we water. Later on, starting this week as a matter of fact, we back off to about one time a week.
Early in the season, our goal with fertilizing is to push growth so that we get full plants that fill the containers as soon as possible. Later in the season, we just maintain the growth and cut back on fertilizing so that we don’t have overgrown plants.
The bottom line is that plants growing in soilless mixes need fertilizer in order to sustain growth. Some greenhouses add slow-release fertilizers to their mixes so that you are successful but there comes a time when the nutrients run out and you may have to supplement.
If you haven’t been fertilizing your containers, you might give them a boost and keep them looking good through the fall season. Always follow label directions and you can’t go wrong.
I also tend to see overgrown or straggly plants that just haven’t done really much at all. If this is the case, consider cutting the plants back about half-way in order to encourage new growth or branching out.
Cutting back along with fertilizing will help to rejuvenate old, tired plants and allow them to continue growing as long as the weather holds up.
You can also rejuvenate plants in the flower beds at this time if needed. Most of my stuff looks pretty good but I have seen some beds looking a little rough.
If plants have been affected by insects or disease, they can withstand a little haircut as well.
Or, if you are tired of them, it’s time to rip them up and start thinking about planting the fall garden. Mums, pansies, flowering cabbage and kale are at many of the garden centers ready to spruce up the fall garden.