feeding container plants

augiedog55November 29, 2011

What do you guys feed your container plants and should you put your pots out early before you put your plants in them? Thanks

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Foliage Pro is a well liked and recommended fertilizer, containing everything plants need, including micro-nutrients.

What do you mean by putting pots out early? I'm not sure I follow...

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 10:17AM
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Sorry for not being clear. I mean putting the pots outside a month or so before putting the plants in them.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 10:48AM
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You don't mention what you intend to grow, but I'm guessing you mean filling your containers with potting mix and allowing them to sit outside for a while. Is this right? I think that's a benefit when using organic ingredients--gives them time to begin breaking down. If you're using synthetic ferts, I'm not sure it would make much of a difference. Most here advocate the synthetic route, e.g. Foliage Pro. I've used both approaches in the past with equally good results.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 11:34AM
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I don't really see any reason to put pots outside before planting in them, unless you wanted to prepare the soil and get everything ready beforehand... but it would depend on how large and heavy the pots are, what kind of plants we're talking about, and where you are located, climate-wise.

I keep my very large patio pots stored in a garage over winter, mainly because they're unglazed clay and I don't want them to crack or break. In early spring, once the danger of frost is over, I move them outside, fill them with my medium, and plant with a variety of cell pack annual plants.

Small pots and hanging baskets also get stored inside the garage. Any tender plants I've wintered over inside go outside after the danger of frost is over.

Anything I'm re-potting, or any young trees, perennials, special plants, or things like that get potted up with fresh soil and placed where they'll stay for the summer season when the weather allows. I couldn't pre-fill the pots because I need to spread out and fill in around the root systems of such plants as I'm potting them.

If I were to pre-fill my large pots and set them outside for longer than a few days before planting them, our barn cats would just use them as personal bathrooms... so I find it best to fill my pots and plant them all at the same time.

Is there some particular reason you have in mind as to your idea of placing them outside a month before planting?

In container growing, it's the soil you use that's most important, and I mix my own mediums using a combination of ingredients that offer me better soil structure, aeration, and faster drainage and evaporation, which ensures that my plants have healthier root systems. There's a lot of great information about container growing and soils in this very forum, within a thread titled "Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention"... it's definitely worth a read!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 11:40AM
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I'm going to be growing tomatoes. I never thought about the cat issue.. I'm sure the outside cats around here would have a hay day..lol.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 12:48PM
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Yes, cats tend to look at freshly placed soils and other loose medium type items as great new public restroom areas, and will use them as such! I've even had cats break open bags of items just so they could use the contents for such a reason!

Honestly, though... there's really no reason you need to pre-fill pots and let them stand outside for any length of time prior to planting.

I really wish that when I began growing things and gardening many decades ago, someone had told me factual information about the whole thing, some good solid basics, and that there wasn't so much misinformation and myth floating around.

For example, there are vast differences between growing in containers, and growing in the ground. They are two very different environments, and require significantly different approaches if we want optimum results.

A green thumb is really just applied knowledge, and it's tough for us average growers to sift through everything written and find the truth. We really have to take everything we encounter with a huge grain of salt and a lot of common sense... especially since the gardening industry does nothing to correct misinformation or dispel myths.

A lot of the books I've read on the subjects of growing tend to either favor the industry, or they're written in technical terms that I'm not really familiar with, or have trouble deciphering. Much of what's written on the internet involves opinion, not necessarily fact, and there are too many variables to growing successfully to take anything at face value without doing a little research.

I urge you to read the article in the thread I mention in my other post above... it's well written, truthful, based in actual provable science and physics, and helped me in so many ways to become a much more successful container gardener. The author is a well respected and experienced bonsai grower and public speaker on the subjects of growing/gardening. He's earned a great following here at GardenWeb, and many of us look to him as a sort of teacher, or mentor. He's taken a lot of complicated science and physics on growing, and broken it down into easy to grasp information for the layperson.

If you begin with a good medium as the foundation for your tomato plantings, you'll end up with a great harvest, and knowledge that will stay with you through many years of successful and enjoyable growing!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 3:18PM
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thank you all for your responses

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 6:44PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

If you make your own potting mix along the lines of the post Jodik recommended, and add lime to the mix, it is a good idea to mix the ingredients, moisten them and then wait a week or two before planting vegetable seedlings like tomatoes. This allows the lime and any controlled release fertilizers you've added to begin to disperse in the mix and stabilize. The mix doesn't need to be in the pot for this process to occur.

If you decide to use a packaged potting mix, there's no need to wait. And you can plant immediately even in fresh mix, although it is better to wait.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2011 at 7:04PM
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Ohio, I going to make a mix i saw on here yesterday. Its raybos 3-2-1 mixture. It looked like he had some good results with it.I appreciate your response.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 9:31AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Augie, are you using self-watering containers for your tomatoes?

Raybo's mix is for self-watering containers. It has finer particulate to help wick
moisture from the reservoir. However, in a traditional container, that fine particulate
might create a drainage and water-retention issue.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 9:36AM
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Raybo's mix was designed to fit the needs of the Earthtainer. However, many folks are using it in traditional containers with great results. I find that a well-grown tomato will colonize a container so quickly that perched water is rarely an issue. If your climate is relatively cool and wet--say the Pacific Northwest, for example--I would definitely suggest a more "open" mix like the 5-1-1. In other areas, a heavier mix will be appreciated once the warm weather sets in. In can be tricky early in the year though while the plant is getting established. Too much moisture retention coupled with cool temps will be a detriment. So, it's a trade-off. The 5-1-1 is pretty much bullet-proof when it comes to watering, but has higher maintenance requirements later in the year. The 3-2-1 will provide better moisture retention, but early season care is more nuanced.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 11:56AM
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I'm going to be try 25 gall. smart pots this yr . I live in Mo. where the summers get HOT. Last yrs we had 45 days between90 and 105. So I want some moisture retention in the summer. I'm not wanting to worry about watering a couple time a day if i decide to go fishing for a day or so.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 1:00PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

A smart pot (fabric) will help mitigate some of the moisture issues if they arise.
If the smart pot is placed on the ground, the moisture will probably be even less of an issue.

That said, it would be very unlikely for 25 gallons of material to dry out in a single day.
Gritty Mix itself wouldn't dry out that fast.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 3:45PM
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Greenman, I thinking about doing an experiment with these these pots. I'll put three out on the ground and 4 on my deck and see which ones do the best all around.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2011 at 8:01PM
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