I want to plant an outdoor container garden this month. Are there things I need to know to be successful?
Choose the proper plants, then protect them from wind and extreme cold.
Obviously, you should choose plants that are cold hardy in your area. You can determine your climate zone by consulting the USDA Climate Zone map. It is very specific, even delineating some climate fluctuations within your county of residence. Various publications and online web sites provide hardiness information for specific plants. This blog provides plenty.
Wind can dislodge plants from containers, especially if the roots of new plants have not yet taken hold in the soil. If possible, position your containers out of the wind. Staking is recommended for tall, high-profile plants.
Select large, stable planting containers with thick walls. Fifteen gallon and larger containers with wide bottoms are best. Greater soil volume provides more insulation for tender roots. Wide bottoms help prevent tipping due to wind or snow loads. Thick walls provide more insulation.
Avoid hanging baskets.
Well-drained, evenly moist soil provides more protection than dry soil because water is insulating, even if turned to ice. Freezing water actually gives off heat.
If you plant more than one container, group them together. The collective mass is more protective than single containers scattered about.
Extreme cold weather may force you to insulate your containers with organic material such as straw to protect the roots. Bales can be conveniently placed around the containers for insulation, then removed when the weather moderates. Even old blankets can be used for insulation.
If extreme cold threatens plant tops, consider draping them with lightweight frost protection fabric. If you can't obtain it, drape your plants with old sheets. Never cover plants with plastic sheets.
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