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The Indefinite Article.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Healthy Plants

My specialty is container gardens, since that's what most everyone's got here in the city. Here's what I do for organic, healthy, gorgeously blooming and growing plants. I start by creating a rich soil that feeds plants for years and years (and, yes, even container plants should have living, vibrant soil, rather than salty gray dead soil that starts to look like chalk or hard, dried out clumps of peat moss over time):

Every spring, about 1 month before the last freeze (in March for most places), I enrich the soil in all my containers (and I recommend my clients with yards do the same). Here's how:

1) I remove the top 1-2 inches of soil -- where salts build up -- and throw it out so I can add the good stuff (for yards, you wouldn't need to do this step)

2) I add some composted pine bark mulch (for acidity and aeration) and some composted manure (for nutrients -- make sure it's COMPOSTED manure -- plain manure is too strong and can burn plants) to the tops of my containers, tilling it in a little to replace the soil I took out. Compost is the best cure for bad soil -- clay soil, sandy soil, compacted soil, etc.

3) Then I till in a mixture of greensand (for trace minerals), crushed up egg shells (for calcium), and some Epsom salts (for magnesium)

4) After the plants are all planted in the containers and after the last freeze, in late April here - probably early April there, I add a slow-release fertilizer (like Osmocote) to the soil surface. That last about 3 months, so I apply it again at the beginning of July.

5) In May (late April there), all blooming plants and vegetables need frequent fertilization if you want them to keep producing, so I start fertilizing these heavy feeders with an organic fertilizer (you could use a liquid seaweed and fish emulsion mix, or shop around for a water-soluble organic fertilizer, or get that Jerry Baker book and use a home remedy mixture), every 2 weeks. For all other plants (foliage plants, houseplants, non-blooming plants), they should only be fertilized about once a month.

6) Stop fertilizing everything by August/September to allow plants to slow down growth in time for winter -- even houseplants go through a winter dormant period where they stop growing as much

People always ask me why plants in containers need fertilizing. They need it even more than plants in the ground because every time you water, some of the nutrients are leached out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the container.

If this sounds like too much work, I recommend just trying to do steps 1 and 4 at least -- you can try doing the other stuff later if you find yourself wanting more blooms, bigger tomato yields, healthier plants, etc.

You can find all of these products at a good nursery -- but, if you're lazy like me you can also order them on amazon. Hey, if any of you ever have a question about your plants, post a photo on here and I can probably help to diagnose any ailments you have ... just call me the plant lady ...


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