Posts Tagged ‘watering container plants’

What requirements does a plant have to have in order to be considered “drought tolerant”?

It’s interesting because sometimes you can tell a drought tolerant plant by just looking at it.  Maybe the leaves are almost nonexistent, as in an evergreen with it’s oh, so narrow leaves (needles).  Some evergreens also have a pine-359845__180waxy substance that helps keep the moisture from being lost.

You’ll notice that there are plants, like silver sage, whose leaves are covered with tiny little hairs.  Those hairs grasp moisture and hold onto it.  sageOr how about plants with very deep root systems?  They dig deep to  find moisture well below the surface of the soil.  Or on the opposite side of the spectrum, those plants with roots very close to the surface to grab all the barest of rain drops.

Generally, plants that are native to dryer climates like the Mediterranean, the American West, central Asia, and southern Africa will do quite well.  A number of our herbs, used in Italian cooking are from that area and hence do well in drought condition gardens.  Think about Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano and Sage.

But, there are other things to remember about drought tolerance. 37350208-old-garden-scoop-on-root-and-soil-of-flowers-top-view Even a drought tolerant plant needs to have plenty of water as it is planted and trying to establish itself.  Do not ignore any newly placed plant.  Those little rootlets will dry out very quickly, and stunt, or kill your plant.  Keep any new plant well hydrated until it’s well established.  Also, we have to remember that although the plants are drought TOLERANT, that doesn’t say they are able to live through extended periods of severe drought.  If that happens, even the most drought tolerant of plants will need a little drink.  Here is a site that will help you deal with an extended period of drought.

These plants should have well drained, and organic rich soil.  img_5553This is a wonderful advantage we have here at Horizon House.  We have raised beds, with wonderful, rich soil and good drainage (especially after our new drainage systems have been installed).

One of the most important things you can do to support your plants is to provide as much mulch as possible.  It will keep the ground cool and hold that moisture in.  It will also reduce the number of weeds that will compete for water.  In our garden beds, weeds are not a huge problem, but it is worth thinking about.

Our drip irrigation system is wonderful.  It provides water to the roots, rather than to the air where it dries out too quickly.  It also is activated in the early morning, which is the very best time, as the heat of the day(which might dry it out) has not been reached as yet.

Here’s a connection to my old blog (North Country Maturing Gardener) from New Hampshire that talks about Xeriscaping or the use of drought tolerant landscaping.  It talks about many of the ideas we are dealing with here today.


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Most of us are familiar with the Version 2geranium, which is formally named “Pelargonium”.   These geraniums are considered a hardy perennial, biennial or sometimes an annual, medicinal herb.  The herb is often used for aromatic oil.  (I have a hard time believing that, as I find their odor slightly offensive.)  But, that is not my purpose here today.

Today, I want to talk about the geranium with which most of us are familiar.  It is a very popular potted plant, usually associated with bright red, white or pink flowers.

In northern climes, they are considered to be an annual, although they can easily be overwintered, out of the ground.  Here in Seattle, our climate is temperate enough that they survive quite nicely in the garden. At Horizon House we can see them flowering happily, not just in garden beds, but on our balconies.

Audrey was having a few issues with yellowing leaves on her geraniums.  The plants seemed healthy otherwise, and she just removed the leaves.  That’s exactly what she should do.  Remember however, that this is a very drought tolerant plant.  It likes to be a bit dry, so over-watering can overwhelm it pretty quickly.  If the leaves on your geranium are yellowing, hold off on the water a bit.

Also, it could be that it is needing a little fertilizer.  Remember in your home-owner days when you fed your grass fertilizer high in nitrogen???  (The first number on the fertilizer bag.)  That fertilizer (nitrogen) is what kept the grass GREEN!  So, look for a fertilizer that has more nitrogen than other nutrients.  Maybe 10-5-5 or something like that.  The first number should be the highest.  Do not get too rambunctious with that fertilizer.  Less is probably better!  Here’s a link from Clemson University that tells you more than you’d probably ever want to know about fertilizers.  But you might find it interesting!  And it might just help your geranium!

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It happens everywhere.  NO WATER!  This time it’s not a drought, it’s broken, or leaking pipes; it’s the construction work interfering on our gardening levels; it’s hoses malfunctioning; and even vacations happening for a few weeks at a time during the growing season.  It’s frustrating as a gardener, to see our gardens wilting and not being able to help.  But, isn’t that part of what it means to be a gardener?  We have to learn to deal with all kinds of adversity.  Lack of hydration, OR too much water; bugs; disease; inconsiderate people; the list continues.  We know it all, but what can we do?

This week the big issue is the water being turned off due to a leak that must be repaired in a pipe leading to our gardens.  AAARRRGGGHHH!  It doesn’t help that the weather has turned hot and dry.  For Seattle, that’s also a bit frustrating.

So, what do we do?  We wait patiently for the pipe to be repaired.  In the meantime, our plants are drooping.  Perhaps it’s time for drastic actions:

  • carry water from the closest, functioning tap.
  • MULCH-lay mulch around the plants.  It will keep the soil cool, and keep the moisture from evaporating out of the soil so quickly.  (If you click the link, it will take you to a grand definition of Mulch!)
  • You could even try laying wet newspaper around the plants.  It may not look very pretty, but it may also help.  It is a form of mulch.
  • (I removed the idea of crystal polymer beads, due to the many drawbacks.)

So, there are some suggestions that might help.  Other than getting the pipe functioning again…just using these techniques might help your garden “in general” anyway!

Good luck, and happy gardening!

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The scaffolding is going up!  It’s not finished yet.  It will take the better part of this week, as well as last.  I’ve had some concerned gardeners wanting to water their gardens, but we’ve been cautioned by the construction company that we are NOT allowed on the decks until they are FINISHED erecting ALL of the scaffolding!IMG_3563 IMG_3569

As you can see, there is construction material ALL over the decks.  At the moment it is just too easy to trip over “stuff”.  They also fear for unexpected drops from above while installing scaffolding on, and next to the building.

So what do all our conscientious gardeners do?  Their plants are thirsty, and those gardeners are not a happy bunch right now.IMG_3566

Perhaps we should talk about “watering” our container gardens.  I’ll bet all of the gardeners have been doing this right along, which will help their plants deal with this big STRESS in their lives right now!

  • When you water, do you water DEEPLY, and gently?  The water should just “seep” into the soil.  This allows the water to  penetrate down to where the roots dwell.  Let the hose sit there  long enough to moisten the soil without creating puddles. You don’t want to over water either.
  • When you test to see if your garden needs more soil, do you do the “knuckle” test?  Stick your finger into the soil  If you can feel damp soil when your finger is up to the second knuckle IN the soil…it doesn’t need more water!
  • Try not to plant material that NEEDS a ton of water.  It will be just too dependent on you to get out there and water OFTEN!  Get plants that do fine with less water.
  • Try to do your watering in the morning.  The reason is that during the heat of the day, the water dries up too quickly as it is warmed by that sun.  Also, if you get the leaves wet while watering at night, they won’t dry off easily.  Those damp leaves become vulnerable to mold and other diseases, which you would like to avoid.
  • And that brings up AGAIN that it’s best to water the SOIL and not the LEAVES!
  • Last, you shouldn’t rely on the rain to keep those plants well hydrated.  I realize that comment is not too reassuring to you right now, as you are told NOT to go to your plants, but hopefully they will be fine for a few weeks.  Perhaps we’ll be lucky and the heavens will bless us with a downpour!

So, are you heeding all those watering techniques?   Once you can get back to your plants, keep them in mind.  And let’s hope for a speedy installment of that scaffolding!  🙂

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I guess I’m on a tear with this topic.  It just seems to me that it is such a REAL possibility to mix the two without making our gardens ugly!  However, if we put veggies in the garden they should be ornamental.  Looks really DO matter!

Last week we went to Swanson’s Nursery to listen to a talk about Gardening For Seniors.  When I visited their website this morning, I found a section on “Edibles” in the garden.  Here is a picture that says it all!  It is beautiful.  I will paste the picture here for you to look at, but you really should go to their websiteEdible-herbs-veggies-Swanson's home page.container and read what it has to say!  Remember this photograph is a possession of Swanson’s-it is NOT one of my photographs!  How can anyone  think veggies can’t be attractive?

Here is a short list of some really good choices (mine AND Swanson’s) to spread among those flowers:

  • exotic kale
  • dill
  • fennel
  • asparagus
  • dark purple leaved beets (Bull’s Blood is one variety mentioned by Swanson’s)
  • curly leafed parsley
  • different varieties of thyme
  • chives
  • tri-colored sage
  • prostrate rosemary
  • green globe artichoke

What you need to plan for is the height these plants will reach, as well as how much room they need to  spread.  They shouldn’t be taking over the garden…just adding to it!


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I just found a great Aloe identification site.  It’s called “The Aloe Page” visit it here:   http://succulent-plant.com/families/aloaceae.html

I’ve been doing a little more research on this plant, since it’s new to my menagerie.  Some of the things I’ve learned are pretty “common sensible”, but it never hurts to hear it again, so here goes!  IMG_2503

Your aloe will love being outdoors in the summer and particularly enjoy being in the sunshine.  It is a succulent of the most tender variety, being 95% water.  If it meets frost, the outcome will be what you find in the ice-cube tray in your freezer!  Definitely, NOT a good thing!  Keep it protected.  If you put it outside in the summer, be sure to get it back inside before there is ANY danger of frost!

Even though it is so full of water, you should allow the soil to completely dry out before watering it.  In fact, some of the articles I’ve read suggest putting gravel or marbles in the bottom third (1/3) of the pot when you plant it to create incredible drainage.

IMG_2508The root system is shallow rather than deep, so try to use a wider rather than deeper pot when you plant it.  If you already have it in a conventional pot, consider making that shift when you re-pot it in the future.   As you can see by my photos, I planted this aloe before doing research..  SOOO, I’ll have to be looking for a shallower, wider container when it’s time to re-pot!  (Whoops!)  As I keep saying, I’m learning, right along with you when it comes to houseplants!

You can propagate it by removing the off-shoots around the base of the plant and potting them.

Aloes are also used medicinally.   The sap found in the leaves are said to relieve burns and itches, as well as insect bites.  All you do is remove a leaf from the base of the plant, slice it open and apply the gel-like sap to the designated area and wait for relief!

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We are in the midst of getting ready for our trip east.  Our eldest grand-daughter is graduating from High School in Connecticut.  We will travel east for that.  While there, we will visit family and friends.  We will be gone for just about 4 weeks, which is a very long time for us.  Usually three weeks is about our limit.  However, while we’re there, it makes sense to cram as much into the visit as we can.

At our advancing age, we are not anxious to do this too often.  We’re getting to the point where we are hoping our family will come to us instead of the other way around.

In the meantime I need to prepare my indoor plants for a long period of neglect!  I have a friend who will come in to water about once a week, but I need to get these guys out of the sun, and into a place where they can be safely watered without damage to their surroundings.

I’m thinking of protecting my “coffee table” with plastic or impermeable paper, and putting the plants there.  The plants will get light, but no direct sunshine.  If the pots leak a bit, it won’t matter because the table will be protected.  I also have a few of those little automatic siphoning “thingies” that should keep the soil in the pots moist.  I’ll use those as well.

I’m hoping that 4 weeks of benign neglect might allow them 4 weeks of relaxation!  I’ll be anxious to see how they fare!

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