Container Plants Need Extra Fertilizer

Plant roots have a more limited growing area in containers. Container soils are more porous to insure good drainage. These 2 factors make it necessary to water more frequently. As a result, fertilizer is used more rapidly and it washes out of the soil more quickly.

Yellow leaf color is usually caused by a shortage of nitrogen. Other nutrient elements may also be in short supply, but nitrogen deficiency symptoms are the first that are visible. You can solve this problem by either fertilizing more frequently or using a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote.

Container soil mixes often contain enough fertilizer to last for several weeks. Any fertilizer in a mix planted in May has been used up by this time. I add a slow release fertilizer when I plant my containers. I have found that I need to add more fertilizer in early August because it seems to be running out. Yellow older leaves are a good indication that more fertilizer is needed.

Leaf vegetables such as spinach and lettuce do well in containers. When planted in April they reach maturity in July and start to deteriorate and go to seed. I make several sowings of lettuce and spinach at monthly intervals beginning in early April. When the first planting matures, the second one is ready to pick. Because lettuce and spinach are quick maturing and somewhat frost tolerant, new plantings can be made until late August. They can usually be harvested through November. Other leaf vegetables such as Swiss chard and kale do well from an August planting.

Hedge Pruning

Late summer is a good time to prune hedges after they have made most of their growth. Hedges are generally sheared because we want them to grow thickly and have geometrical shape. It is important to prune upper shoots more than lower ones. Not only do they grow faster, but if the top of a hedge becomes wider than the bottom, it shades the lower leaves. Plants drop leaves which are heavily shaded because they are not efficient in producing energy for plant growth. Hedges should be tapered so they are slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom. This will keep them full and leafy at the bottom.

Why Natural Shrub Pruning is Better

Natural shrub pruning preserves the natural shape and density of plants. Each shrub has its own natural growth shape. Why make all shrubs look alike? With natural shrub pruning, branches are pruned one at a time with hand pruners, loppers (with long handles – for larger branches). Pruning begins when shrubs are small, before they have outgrown their planting area and block windows or walkways. This may only require shortening one or two branches the first time.

1. Branches are cut inside or below the leaf surface where other smaller branches hide the stubs.

2. Instead of pruning branch tips, they are cut back to a side branch or removed entirely, keeping the same density of plant growth.

3. Lower branches are shortened less (or not at all) than upper branches, which keeps the shrub full and leafy clear to the ground.

4. Because many fewer branches are cut (especially after several prunings) the difference in pruning time becomes negligible (or sometimes even less over time).

5. The natural shape of the shrub is retained because branches are deliberately cut at different lengths.

Can Over-sheared Shrubs Be Restored to Natural Shape?

Yes, over-sheared shrubs can be restored to a more natural condition, although it may take 2 or more prunings to do so. Typically, one third or more of the branches are removed deep inside the shrub, sometimes clear to their source. Pruning cuts on some of the remaining branches are made at different lengths, hiding the stubs inside the outer leaves. As the shrub regrows after 1 to 3 prunings, it returns to its natural shape.

Dead-Heading Increases Flowering

The main reason for removing old, dead flowers (referred to as “dead-heading”) is to improve the appearance of the landscape. However dead-heading will also increase the amount of bloom of many annual and perennial flowers. Plants produce flowers to reproduce themselves. After a flower has been pollinated and produces seed, plants often consider their job done. When dead flowers are removed, this stimulates many plants to bloom again. Some flower varieties only produce one set of bloom at a specific time of year and will not bloom again even if the flowers are removed.

Some of our most popular annual flowers either drop old flowers naturally or grow new leaves which cover the dead flowers. Petunias, Impatiens, Begonias, Marigolds, Pansies, Alyssum and Lobelia fit in this group. They continue to bloom and make a colorful show even without dead-heading. Most perennial flowers benefit by dead-heading.

Landscape Remodeling

The main problem with most mature landscapes is overgrown shrubs which no longer enhance the home or business. They may have been sheared so they are all round balls or boxy hedges. They may have had their bottom branches removed or lost lower leaves because of overgrown top growth. In many cases, shrubs have grown together so they no longer have their individual shape or character.

Take a critical look at your landscape and make plans for some remodeling. Even if your landscape is relatively young, you may be able to see shrubs that will soon be overcrowded. You may be able to remove some of the extra ones before they have completely grown together. This will allow the remaining ones to retain their natural shape. Will some light pruning on remaining shrubs help before they become overgrown?

We can give you suggestions or draw a sketch for a new planting. We can help you select locally adapted plants and select plants which fit the height and width of planting areas. Replanting with plants which reach a mature size within the allotted space will result in long lasting satisfaction. Consider widening beds near buildings so that you can leave some space between shrubs and the building.

Limit the different kinds of shrubs you plant. In most cases clusters of 3 or more of the same shrub are more attractive than individuals. Individual specimen plants may combine well with clusters of other plants. Consult books on landscape design for ideas about attractive groupings. If you are planning to do landscape remodeling, we can do a landscape design for you.