Garden Tips from Garden Mama!

Container Gardening Big Tip!

You are growing more plants in pots every year! Welcome to my world where the gardener controls site, soil, and maintenance with less frustration when you employ strategies like smart watering:


  • Headspace is the open area between the top of the soil and the top of the pot. Always pot with ½ to 1 inch of headspace so you can water without splashing.
  • Watering cans and hoses each have their place, so long they include a water breaker. That prevents splashing, waters pots evenly, and does not expose roots.
  • Apply water slowly but surely, steadily until water runs out the drain holes. Continue as you count to 3 and then let the rest run out. In dry weather, refill the headspace.
  • Water leaves often enough to prevent dust buildup – helps knock off insects, too.
  • Do not let pots sit in the water that has run through them.
  • Do water from the bottom occasionally by filling the saucer under mature plants.
  • Reservoir pots simplify the watering process exponentially!

GardenMama’s Best Container Growing Mix Recipe

Start with 1 big bag bark-based or organic material-based potting soil.

Dump all of it into a wheelbarrow & use the empty bag to measure:

§          ½ bag ground bark

§          ½ bag compost (yours or store bought)

§          ¼ bag composted manure if pots will be outdoors all year

§          ¼ bag sharp sand (‘play’ sand is ok)

§          1 cup granular garden fertilizer if potting soil has none

§          1 cup garden lime (not hydrated)

§          Mix all ingredients together well.

§          Store indefinitely in covered plastic can.

Tailor the mix to your needs: add more bark for orchids, more sharp sand for cacti and succulents, more compost for ferns and bog plants, etc.

Ready, Set, Prune!

Everybody talks about pruning, often with a superior attitude to make it sound harder than it is, and that causes prune-o-phobia in too many people. There are good reasons to prune shrubs, including to control and direct growth, remove unproductive or hazardous growth, and create or maintain a topiary and nothing to fear. Just remember: you can always take off more, but you can’t put it back, so prune a bit, step back to look, and prune more. The time to prune evergreen shrubs is now, just before new growth takes off for the year. Start with hand pruners and a lopper or folding saw, and first cut out any dead wood or branches that crisscross the canopy and one of any 2 that rub right against each other. Overall, you can take off up to 1/3 of an evergreen shrub in 1 year. We’ve had some growth starts already, but with the freezing temps forecasted for next week, there’s still time to exercise your right to prune evergreens before spring arrives in earnest.



Daylily Smarts

Daylilies in bloom are my idea of eye candy that’s easy to love and easy to grow, too. But evergreen daylilies are a truly welcome sight on a wet, gray winter day. The magnificent ‘Suburban Nancy Gayle’ is not in bloom today, but those gorgeous strappy leaves are glowing with rain in my front garden. A mixed flowerbed that blooms from spring into summer needs daylilies – a row of tall ones for height where it’s needed, some smaller clumps for knee high color, and at least a few rebloomers like my favorite, ‘Scarlett O’Hara’. Being evergreen is not a limiting factor for daylily choices! Some are entirely deciduous, others lose some leaves each fall and put on a lot more in spring. Grab a bag of composted manure so you’ll have it ready to spread a light blanket around your daylilies when conditions dry out a bit. There is a little fertilizer in composted manure, but its value as an organic matter benefits the soil and thus the plants. Fertilize with a formula made for flowering plants in late March.