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carved stone patio tub from india

A highly carved stone trough, like this one from India, can make a big impact on an otherwise dull patio. Fill it to overflowing with seasonal favorites.  Use Indian fabrics on pillows and your patio with have an exotic mood.

Pots on the Patio

After shovels, terra cotta pots may be the most useful items for your garden -- and true classic ornaments in a Mediterranean garden. You can use them to...

  • Add a splash of color to your patio every month of the year with pots of colorful perennials and annuals.
  • Fill in temporarily empty spaces in a flower border.
  • Define "rooms" on the patio or in your garden. A few pots set alongside the pavers in the lawn will help keep everyone on the path. Pots containing larger plants can be wall-like at the edge of a patio or the edge of a pool.
  • Grow colorful and delicious vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes or peppers.
  • Grow herbs such as thyme, basil, oregano, chives and mint. Mint in particular is so invasive that planting in a pot is practically the only way to keep it under control.
  • Grow tender trees such as citrus that might not survive a cold winter in an exposed area of your yard.  You can bring the trees inside come winter.
  • Tell your visitors where your front door is. A topiary in a large pot is a clear signal for guests.
ornamental peppers in pots Stacking pots of ornamental peppers on an old ladder is one way to add color to your patio in autumn.

How To Plant Flowers and Trees in Pots

The array of pots available now is astounding. But whatever the size or color of pot you choose, follow these rules for planting.

  1. Make sure the pot is big enough for your plant or tree. It should be large enough to accommodate at least one year of root growth.

  2. Use good soil -- packaged potting mix may be the best choice. It has been sterilized so you won't be introducing any soil problems or diseases.

  3. Do NOT fill the bottom of the pot with gravel or other coarse material. Surprisingly, this may impede drainage. A simple curving piece of broken pot over the drainage hole will keep your potting mixture from leaking out.

  4. If the potting mix doesn't have fertilizer in it, add a little bit. You will want to lightly fertilize most potted plants -- indoors and out--every couple of weeks during the growing season. Or use a slow-release fertilizer.

  5. Stir in some polymers to the potting mix. These granules retain water and release it slowly to the soil. That can mean you have to water the potted plants less frequently.

  6. Double-pot to help protect pots exposed to direct summer sun. The inner pot should be terra cotta to absorb water to cool the pot and to allow the plant roots to breathe. The outer pot should be large enough to allow you to put insulation between the two pots to further help control heat. For insulation, use sphagnum moss, coarse mulch, wood chips or crumpled newspaper.   Do NOT plant in metal containers because the roots will cook and the plant will die.

  7. Move planted pots into shade on hot days.

As the weather heats up, you may still have to water your potted plants two or more times a day. And always keep this in mind -- plants in pots are like animals in the zoo. They rely entirely on you to provide them with everything they need to survive.

For a guide to picking healthy plants in the nursery, click here.

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