Garden & Landscape Tips

Flowers in boots
Anything can be repurposed into new plant containers, including some cute rainboots.
Imagesbybarbara / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Growing in pots and baskets is a great way to add color to the landscape without digging holes or back-breaking weeding. However, container gardening can be a tad expensive, what with all of the pots, potting mix, fertilizer, and such. Here are six ways to hold down expenses:

Recycled containers
An old backpack, left, and a basket, right have been repurposed into flower pots.
George Weigel

Recycled containers

Instead of buying new pots, look around the house for containers that can be repurposed into pots or baskets. Most any container will do – from old boots to bathtubs – so long as it can hold potting mix and allow water to drain out the bottom.

Stretch the potting mix

Fresh potting mix is a good idea each season, especially if you had disease issues or find that last year’s mix is already compacted. Otherwise, “refresh” your pots by mixing half of last year’s mix with half new mix. Don’t scrimp, though, by buying cheap, heavy, poor-quality potting mix. And don’t try to reduce soil quantity by adding stones, foam, or other materials to the pot bottoms, which is counter-productive to good drainage.

DIY potting mix
Save a few dollars by blending your own potting mix from raw ingredients.
George Weigel

Make your own potting mix

You’ll save a few dollars by mixing your own blend from raw ingredients. One mix recommended by Dr. Jim Downer, a University of California plant pathologist, is 50 to 75 percent peat moss and/or coir (coconut fibers), 25 to 50 percent finely chopped bark and/or perlite, and a small amount of granular, organic fertilizer.

Jessica Walliser, author of “Container Gardening Complete,” has a favorite DIY potting-mix recipe of six gallons of peat moss or coir, four-and-a-half gallons of perlite, six gallons of compost (ideally from your home bins), one-and-a-half cups of a granular organic fertilizer, and if you’re using peat instead of coir, one-quarter cup of crushed or powdered limestone.

Double-duty perennials

Instead of filling a pot with new store-bought annuals, scavenge the yard for perennial flowers that you can dig and divide to use in pots. The best are ones with colorful foliage that add interest long beyond the few weeks they’re in flower. Depending on your location, be sure to return the perennials to the ground in fall to overwinter.

Double-duty houseplants

Put some houseplants you already have to use in containers. Most houseplants appreciate outdoor “summer vacations” in the heat and humidity, so why not use a few in your summer pots alongside new color-coordinated annual flowers? Make sure to remember that it is important to give them increasing exposure to the outside and avoid full-sun locations.

Don’t overpack the pots

Some gardeners like instant impact and plant their new transplants so they almost touch when planting. Keep in mind that if you’re patient, fewer plants will fill in nicely within a few weeks.

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