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Every year you go out to the nursery center and spend a small fortune on potting soil, plants, and containers and in less than two months it was all for nothing. The plants are dead and you wonder what your doing to kill your plants. Just know that you are not alone and that most newbie gardeners are more like plant killers than plant growers. But there is help! Here is a guide to help you learn how to NOT kill your plants this year.
First when you go to the nursery to pick out potting soil or amendments for your garden soil you need to know what to buy. Always always always buy organic potting soil – don’t be fooled by what is the cheapest or the name brand. One of the best potting soils on the market is Black Gold and Supersoil is a close second. Earthworm castings are an awesome fertilizer and amendment as is adding bone and blood meal to your shopping cart. These three things is all the food your plants need and they will grow healthly and strong for you.
When you create a container garden, be aware of how hot your summers get. If you are in the South and it gets extremely hot, don’t buy thin plastic pots as they will just cook the roots. Heavy duty plastic, Styrofoam, terra cotta, and ceramic are some of the best materials for container gardens. If building a raised bed use untreated lumber and stay away from railroad ties as they just leak chemicals into your precious flowers.
Death by watering is probably one of the most common ways I see newbie gardeners killing their plants. Watering is a science, but one that is easy to learn. Know what kind of plants that you have and if they like to be in evenly moist soil (means it never dries out), if they like their roots wet (like in the Northwest), or if they prefer it more on the drier side (like succulents and cacti). For the most part, remember that you should water flowers and vegetables 1-2 times a week, shrubs every two weeks, and trees monthly. Anytime a plant drops its leaves this is a sign of dehydration and water immediately. The best time to water is early in the morning right before sunrise so the plant can uptake the water and it won’t evaporate in the sunlight. Container gardens need to be watered more often, sometimes 1-2 times a day and can benefit from having them on a drip irrigation system.
Most plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight to thrive. If your plants always seem to need water, put up a shade cloth to protect them from the afternoon sun. If the leaves are burned in the center this usually shows sunburn. Another tip to remember is when you bring your plants home from the nursery take a minute to look at the roots. If you see little salt crystals, you will need to make sure you water even more to leech the salt away from the roots. Plants will not grow if taking in too much salt.
If you follow these tips this year you will learn how to not kill your plants and be a part of the polite gardening society!