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23 Aug 2017
ACG Sprinklers - Utah SLC / Ogden - Lawn Care, Landscaping, Snow Removal

How to Grow Potted Plants

You want to take advantage of a change of color and scenery incorporate your favorite potted plants on the outer edges of wide steps. Siting containers in well-traveled areas, such as entries, gives them greater impact. These are portable, easy to change up and with a drip-line the perfect addition with no maintenance at all (just remember to put a hole in the pot – ask me Adam’s wife, Jyl, I learned the hard way on this one ūüôā

It also often contains weed seeds. Make or buy a soil-less mix — one composed of peat moss or coconut fiber (coir), vermiculite or perlite, and other ingredients. A lightweight soil for¬†potted plants¬†needs to provide good drainage, hold moisture, and give roots room to grow.

Every plant needs the right soil, water, light, and fertilizer, but container-grown plants need a little bit more attention from a caregiver than those grown in the ground. Here’s our guide to success with potted plants.

Soil for Potted Plants

Container plants should be grown in a special potting mix that doesn’t contain soil. Garden soil is too heavy and may compact roots, cutting off their oxygen. It also often contains weed seeds.

Make or buy a soilless mix — one composed of peat moss or coconut fiber (coir), vermiculite or perlite, and other ingredients. A lightweight soil for potted plants needs to provide good drainage, hold moisture, and give roots room to grow.

Garden Tip: Most orchids are the exception to this rule. They need a potting medium that gives even better air circulation than the typical soilless mix. Bark chunks are used for potting some orchids, while other types need only a slatted wooden basket or a slab of wood.

Watering Potted Plants

Water and drainage play a key role in success with container plantings. Poor watering practices — especially overwatering — kill more potted plants than anything else.

One easy rule: Use room-temperature water when possible. Cold water can harm roots and foliage, and hot water can kill plants instantly. Also, allow tap water to sit for several hours to evaporate any dissolved chemicals. Softened water contains sodium that can accumulate in the soil and burn plant roots when used over time. Use an outdoor tap for plant water, or install a tap for watering plants before the point where the line enters the softener.

Watering plants in the morning allows any moisture on the foliage to evaporate before evening; foliage that remains cool and wet during evening and nighttime hours is more prone to disease. This is especially important for disease-prone plants such as tomatoes and roses.

Another must: Containers need drainage holes so plants are not left sitting in water. You can place saucers under pots to catch and hold rain or extra water, but remove any excess water left after about an hour to prevent root rot and excessive sogginess in the soil.

Before watering always check soil moisture by poking your finger into the soil. Only water if the soil feels dry. Wet soil can be tricky, because when roots drown and die, the overwatered plant often droops, making you think it needs more water. Checking the soil moisture prevents you from compounding the problem with even more water.

If a plant has dried out completely, submerge the pot in water to its rim to allow the soil to soak up moisture from the top and the bottom. Submerging is usually an easy way to water dried-out hanging plants as well; use a tub or sink, and leave the pot there until air bubbles have stopped appearing.

How often do you need to water? That depends on the type of plant, the size of the pot, the weather, and other factors. Outdoor containers might need watering as often as once or twice a day during hot, dry weather but much less during cooler, cloudy conditions. As a general rule, the larger the container for your potted plants, the less watering you’ll need to do. The container material matters, too: A plant in a porous clay pot needs water more frequently than one in a plastic or ceramic pot.

Various types of plants have different watering requirements: Think about the differences between cacti, which prefer infrequent watering, and cannas, which prefer constantly moist soil. In general, plants with a lot of leaf surface or soft, lush foliage are thirstier than those with less foliage or waxy leaves. Plants with silver, fuzzy leaves also typically need less water.

A general rule: It is better to water less often and more deeply than to offer light, frequent waterings.

Planting Containers

Outdoor containers, in general, should be at least 12 inches wide and 10 inches deep. The bigger the pot, the more room is available for roots, so the better your plants will perform.

Large potted plants need larger containers, and small ones should go into smaller containers. Mixed containers often look best when you use a large container and include graduated heights and variety in foliage texture.

Light Requirements

All plants depend on light for their survival, and making sure your potted plants get the right amount of light is key to keeping them happy. For both indoor and outdoor containers, group plants with similar light requirements. Don’t mix shade lovers with sun lovers in a single pot; one or both of them will be unhappy, depending on where you place the pot.

Fertilizing Potted Plants

Every time you water a potted plant, nutrients leach out of the drain holes along with the excess water. An easy way to deal with fertilization is to use time-release organic fertilizers. Soil microbes activate organic fertilizers, which slowly release their nutrients to plants.

Compost and rotted mature improve soil drainage and add nitrogen — needed for healthy foliage — and other nutrients. Other sources of nitrogen include blood meal, cottonseed meal, fish meal, and fish emulsion. Plants also need rock phosphate and potash.

Buy bags of premixed, balanced (the numbers on the bag should match, such as 10-10-10) organic fertilizer and use it in addition to organic amendments to build healthy soil for your pots. Follow label directions for amounts to use in containers. Feed when you plant, then monthly after that.



09 Jul 2017
ACG Sprinklers - Utah SLC / Ogden - Lawn Care, Landscaping, Snow Removal

Energy-Efficient Landscaping Tips

Sitting under a shade tree on a hot day makes you cooler, and standing by a wall on a cold, windy day makes you feel warmer. It seems pretty obvious. What’s less obvious is that you can landscape your yard to offer your home those same benefits. It just takes a bit of planning in the way you site trees, fences, and other elements.

Use these landscaping tips to keep your energy costs down and make your yard more environmentally friendly.

  • A well-positioned tree can save up to 25 percent of your home’s energy for heating and cooling.
  • A tree-shaded yard can be up to 6 degrees cooler than a sunny yard. A shaded lawn can be up to 25 degrees cooler than sunny pavement.
  • Shading your home’s roof can increase your air conditioner’s energy efficiency by more than 10 percent.
  • A single shade tree equals the cooling power of 15 air conditioners — and it runs for free!
  • Three house-shading trees can cut your cooling bill by as much as half.
  • Windbreaks can cut winter heating bills by 10 to 30 percent.

Regional Strategies for Energy-Efficient Landscaping

The Northeast:¬†In most of your region, you want to take advantage of the sun’s heat during the winter, so plant deciduous trees on the south- and west-facing sides of your home. This will do double duty: In summer, their leafy canopy will shade your house, helping to keep it cooler. It’s also helpful to use a windbreak of trees or large shrubs to the north or northwest side of your home. This block will prevent winter winds from stealing as much of your home’s heat.

The Midwest:¬†The hot, blazing sun can make Midwestern summers uncomfortable. Help your air conditioner by planting large deciduous trees on the south or west side of your home. To reduce the heating costs during cold winter months, allow sun’s rays to reach the south and west sides of your home. If possible, grow a windbreak of trees or shrubs on the north or northwest side of your house.

The High Plains and Mountain West:¬†Enjoy all those sunny winter days knowing your furnace is working less if the sun can shine on your home, providing radiant heat. We know that in many areas it’s not feasible, but plant a windbreak if you can on the north side of your home. In summer, using deciduous trees on the sunny side of your house casts welcome shade.

The Pacific Northwest:¬†Let the sun work for you: On those rare sunny winter days, its radiant heat can help your furnace if its warm rays can reach your house, so avoid planting evergreens on the south or southwest side of your home. Instead, select deciduous trees that lose their leaves in winter; they’ll give the added benefit of shading your home from the hot sun in summer.

The South:¬†Pay attention to the breeze and use fences or shrubs to help direct cooling breezes at your house. Likewise, help stop the sun from turning your home into an oven by planting large evergreen trees on the south or southwest side of your home. Decrease the effect of the humidity by planting drought-tolerant plants next to your home. Avoid siting thirsty plants next to your house; they’re better suited for other corners of your yard.

The Southwest: While summer heat can be intolerable, lessen its affect on your air conditioner by planting shade trees on the sunniest sides of your home. Because summer breezes are so rarely cool, use windbreaks to block the wind around your home.

Southern California:¬†Unless you’re lucky enough to live on the coast where it seems like the weather is always nice, you’ll want to combat summer heat by planting big shade trees on the south and southwest side of your home. Also take a look at blocking those warm summer winds: Plant windbreaks around your home to deflect them.

Landscape to Reduce Winter Heating Costs

Minimize heating bills by doing the following:


  1. Plant evergreens to block cold northwest winter winds. A windbreak protects an area up to 10 times as far out as its height — so a series of 30-foot-tall trees can shield a 300-foot-wide area. Dense windbreaks can cut wind speed by 85 percent. Together these two effects can cut your winter heating bills by 25 percent.
  2. Place plantings, walls, or berms near — but not against — your home to create dead air space. This space acts as an insulator, slowing the escape of heat from your home.
  3. Plant deciduous trees, especially on the south side of a house. They can screen 70 to 90 percent of the hot summer sun yet allow breezes through. Deciduous trees also allow welcome winter sun to filter through the branches once they’re bare. Deciduous vines serve the same purpose but, since they’re smaller, do so to a lesser degree.
  4. Create open lawn areas on the south side of your home. These green, open areas create an area for snow to accumulate. The light reflected off the snow and onto your house can offer a radiant heating effect.
  5. Build a tall fence to slow winter winds. Not only will it lower heating bills, it will provide protection for less cold-hardy plants.
          ACG Tip: Semi-open fences that allow some air movement through them are the most effective. Solid fences divert air over them with too much force and create an effect like a wind tunnel.
  6. Design stone or concrete surfaces around your home, such as a patio. It can soak up heat during the day and reflect it during a cool evening.

Landscape to Reduce Summer Cooling Costs

Maximize your air conditioner’s efficiency by doing the following:


  1. Build a pergola, ramada (a shade shelter open on three sides), awning, or other shade-giving structure on the west side of your house. It’s an attractive way to filter light during the hottest part of the day. An open structure, such as a vine-covered pergola, is ideal as it allows cool breezes through and doesn’t trap heat.
  2. Position porches, decks, and patios on the east side of your home. They’ll become an ideal gathering spot because of their early morning warmth. And they won’t be sauna-like during the late-day heat. A shade tree will keep the area even cooler.
  3. Think about your groundcovers. Light-colored stone or granite mulch and concrete will reflect more heat, making things hotter. Darker stone and wood chips will absorb the heat. A lawn or expanse of groundcover plants is the most cooling of all, but may require lots of water.
  4. Place trees where they’ll shield your windows, especially those on the south and west sides, from direct sun. Deciduous trees are a great option as they block sun during hot weather but allow sunlight to filter through during cooler weather once their branches are bare.
  5. Funnel breezes through your property. Plant a row of trees on one side of the house and a wall on the other side of the house, to create a wind tunnel, for example. This will encourage stronger cooling breezes through the property and around the house.
  6. A water feature is cooling both physically and psychologically. A large pond upwind will noticeably cool the air of your whole landscape. A small pond or fountain can cool a smaller area.
  7. Plant a cluster of trees to act as a low-tech air conditioner for the entire property, creating a cool zone which breezes can then distribute throughout the property and around the house.

Small-Scale Tips

  • Take time to study the movement of sun and wind around your house and property through the seasons. You’ll then be better able to control them with plantings and structures.
  • Control sun through just a window or two by planting annual vines. Create a trellis of galvanized wire or build one of wood to surround or even cover the window. Plant with a deciduous vine, such as a sweet autumn clematis, morning glories, or scarlet runner bean. The vine’s leaves will create filtered shade during the summer but allow light in during winter.
  • Concentrate more on depth than height when planting a windbreak. One row of trees is good but two is better, and three is best. Start with a row of low-growing flowering trees and shrubs closest to the house, a row of taller deciduous trees in the next row, and a row of tall evergreens farthest out.
  • Plant windbreaks on the north and northwest side of the house. Keep in mind, however, that in cold-winter areas you may well want the warming rays of the afternoon sun on the west side of your home. Plant a west windbreak far enough away to allow the low, slanting afternoon winter sun to reach the house.
  • Berms are a great windbreak booster and can further help channel cold winter winds up and over a house.

Check with ACG Sprinklers for more information.  With the right lawn services applied at the right time, you can maximize your efforts in maintaining a green, healthy lawn and landscape you’ll love all spring and summer long.

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