Pat's Patio Garden

Growing Plants in Pots

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Then and Now

I have always enjoyed growing plants but haven’t had the best of luck with most plants. Many years ago I got very involved with Bonsai and had great success, at least for a few years. I won a few blue ribbons at the Florida State Fair, donated bonsai to charity auctions, sold bonsai to friends, and even wholesaled bonsai to a few local nurseries. Then “life” took over and I didn’t have the time or motivation to care for bonsai.

In February of 2013, I decided to make the time to try to grow a variety of plants in containers on my screened patio. Those plants included blueberries, bananas, and others that appealed to me.

I started off with Geopots for containers as I like the “air root pruning” concept of fabric grow pots. And, since I hadn’t had too much luck with other containers it seemed to be time to try something new

As I began documenting my plant growing progress, I expected to only have successes to write about but I've had failures, too. My hope has always been that I might be able to pass along tips that might benefit other container gardeners.

I made this video on February 27, 2013 to document the start of my gardening. When I get the time I will do a three year update.

Grow Bags

Geopots are a popular brand of fabric grow bags for container gardening and hydroponics. Other brands include Gro Pro, Island Grow Pots, Hydrofarm Dirt Bag, Gardman Resuable Growbag, HID Hut Grow Bags, Bosmere Grow Plant Bags, Viagrow Grow Bags, Sunleaves Grow Bags, Hydroponic Prune Pots, and Smart Pots. No doubt I missed a few brands but that should give anyone a good starting point when looking for fabric grow bags. Amazon has many different grow bags for sale; reading the reviews should help with choosing the right bag.

Burlap bags and feed sacks can also be used when available. DIY gardeners with modest sewing skills may decide to construct their own grow bags from landscape cloth, old clothing, and even cloth shopping bags.

Fabric grow bags probably won’t last indefinitely in comparison to clay pots but their benefits to plants I think outweigh a shorter lifespan. The fabric bags allow air into the root zone and provide excellent drainage. But, perhaps their best feature is that they also air prune the roots when the roots have filled the bag. As the roots try to grow out through the fabric, they are air dried. This air pruning forces the roots to branch out inside the bag with more fibrous feeder roots and keeps the plant from becoming root bound and produces a much healthier plant.

Fabric grow pots are a favorite with hydroponic gardeners as well as gardeners who are “growing their own” in greenhouses and growhouses.

When I decided to use grow bags, I bought several one-gallon Geopots from Amazon.com. I then purchased several 10-gallon Geopots with handles from an eBay seller. I chose Geopots due to their high ratings although I’m sure some of the other brands might work just as well. I particularly like the handles on the larger Geopots.

When the one-gallon Geopots arrived, I repotted two Jalapeno seedlings into two of the bags and moved a Peace Lily from its ceramic pot into a third bag. The three plants I then moved to the window sill outside my kitchen.

I had already ordered two dwarf banana trees and filled the remaining two bags with potting soil so I could quickly pot the plants when they were delivered. Those bags also went onto the window sill. Because I don’t expect the banana trees to stay in the one-gallon grow bags for long (at least that’s my hope), I ordered two 10-gallon Geopots from eBay.

I also started gathering up my various partial bags of Miracle-Gro potting soil and then visited the local Walmart to buy a couple more bags. Each 10-gallon Geopot will hold about 32 quarts of soil or a little over one cubic foot.

Once the first 10-gallon Geopot was delivered, I decided to repot three of my current plants which meant I would need several more. I went back to eBay and purchased five more 10-gallon Geopots from the original seller. Since my initial purchases, I have also purchased two 5-gallon Smart Pots (just to compare with Geopots) and five 5-gallon Geopots.

The Smart Pots are not as sturdy as the Geopots nor as well made. I planted my blackberries in the Smart Pots but didn’t fill soil all the way to the top so the sides collapse inward whenever I am watering and I have to keep readjusting the material as I water.

Soil, Etc.

I've used the following for planting and/or repotting my various container plants:

Miracle-Gro Potting Soil: this seems to be a decent all-purpose potting soil.

Ferti-lome Start-n-grow Premium Plant Food Granules: I usually sprinkle a little of this prior to placing the root ball into the pot.

Jobe’s 09526 Organic All Purpose Granular Fertilizer: this is my regular fertilizer “as needed” for most of the plants. If other plants need a different mix to do well I’ll search for the best option for those.

Kempf Coco Fiber Growing Medium: while this makes an excellent all-nature and eco-friendly potting mix, I have used it as a mulch. Plants could be put into this instead of other potting soil but at close to $8 for a brick that expands to less than a gallon size pot, it’s too expensive for my needs.

The following are “necessary accessories” for my patio garden:

Suncast Storage Seat: Holds all the small gardening ncessities such as fertilizer, plant labels, fertilizer, etc.

TubTrug: this medium-sized 26 liter green flex tub has multiple uses from watering plants to carrying tools. These come in several sizes and I doubt this will be my last purchase.

Flexzilla 5/8×50 green garden hose; this lightweight hose replaces an older hose that is ready for the trash. It's very good quality.

Dramm heavy-duty brass adjustable hose nozzle. Not much to say except it works.

Several different plant caddies to keep the plants off the concrete floor of the patio and to make them easier to move around.

In case of freeze warnings, the Educational Insights Greenthumb Greenhouse. This little tabletop greenhouse has two shelves and protects several small plants.

For larger plants, Frost Protek Plant Covers and Easy Gardener Plant Protector Bags. These bags are advertised as just as effective as greenhouse protection during freezing weather. I’ll put them to the test.

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