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Container Principles: Maintenance of Plantings

A container garden should be maintained just like a real garden should but only on a smaller scale. Container plantings are flawed because they contain lesser amounts of nutrients, soils, and water as compared to gardens. These limited amounts of nutrients and water in the soil needs to be replenished on a constant basis if the plant is to survive and promote healthy flower and foliage development. There are many regular maintenance methods you can implement such as deadheading, proper soil compaction, and feedings to establish stunning looking displays all season long.

Soil Compaction

Prevention of soil compaction is not exercised as much by gardeners as it should be. When you water your plants, the constant pounding effect the water has on the soil creates a hard outer crust that blocks air and water from passing through the top layer. You can prevent this from occurring by dispersing the water force onto a harder surface other than the soil. I find that placing a piece of broken kitchen plate or an old broken pot piece on top of the soil and allowing the water to flow onto the hard surface works well to dissipate the force.

Before you water your plants, you should break up the compacted soil so that water and air can pass easily to the roots. Use a hand fork or a wooden stick and gently break up the compacted soil.

Green Tip:

Use a push mower. As push mowers are completely manually powered, using one of these will eliminate the gas or electricity you use when mowing your lawn.


Deadheading is a technique used by gardeners to promote the growth of new flowers. When flowers become old and spent, you must remove them so that the plant’s energy is not wasted on seed production of a dead flower. Picking these flower heads will also help you avoid them falling into the display and rotting the plants stems and foliage. Whether plants need deadheading to promote blossoming or purely for cosmetic reasons, it is always a good idea to deadhead to keep your plantings healthy and looking great. Plants the need frequent deadheading are Begoina, Dahlias, Petunia, and Canna.


Container plantings have a restricted root run and contain lesser amounts of nutrients for healthy plant growth. This is especially apparent in crowded containers,where there are numerous plants, and the supply of nutrients is rapidly exhausted. A good method is to mix fertilizer pellets into the potting mix during plantings to ensure a healthy amount of nutrients for your plants. Also, mix soluble powdered fertilizer into water containers or rain barrels, when it comes time to water plants. This will instantly provide nutrients and establish your plantings, no matter how densely packed your container is.