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In-experienced gardener needs help

Let me start out by saying that I know precious little about gardening. That being said, I am an intern for a non-profit organization that would like to set up a series of potted plants in an empty playground pit we have behind our building.

The goal is that the plants will provide some greenery to the barren landscape, since we frequently host events in our backyard. They will be around a few picnic tables. We're hoping by adding some greenery potential donors will be more impressed, but we do not have much time or money to spend.

We are in Austin, Tx, and are hoping for plants that do well all year long with our seasons.

Because they are in a sand pit, they have to be plants that can stay potted.

I would really appreciate any advice anyone can give! Feel free to make as many suggestions as you would like!

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Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3567
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2008 7:58 am
Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

I know that it gets quite warm in Austin, but am not sure how much rain you get in the summer time. In general potted plants are high maintenance, unless connected to drip irrigation. If the task were mine, I would first do a search of drought resistant plants that do well in the area. Your local agricultural extension should be able to help and certainly a local nursery would be able to toss out some ideas.

I do lots of container planting, and IMO there are three most important considerations. First use a high quality soil mix that has enough perlite, rocks, barks, etc. to give adequate drainage. Make sure that the drainage holes can not get clogged, especially from competing roots. We place our permanent planters on top of three bricks or similar spacer to get them off of the ground. If there is a tree withing a hundred feet, its roots will likely find the rich soil in the container, and will plug the drainage holes as well. Second, make sure that an appropriate watering mechanism/schedule is in place. One day without water on a very hot day can result in the loss of the plant. Third, select an appropriate plant for you climate and for the level of care that you are able to provide.

Good luck with your project!

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Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Nice project! Look around for native plants that are adapted to your climate. You have a ton of possibilities:

milkweed, sundrops, coreopsis, perennial salvia/ scarlet sage, penstemon, coneflower, poppy mallow, prairie paintbrush, cardinal feather, mistflower, verbena, scarlet pea/ indigo, blazing star.

They should be easy care once established and if you have a mixture of several, it should cover a pretty long bloom time.

Get the biggest containers you can find. You don't need to spend your money on expensive containers, plastic totes with drain holes drilled work fine as do plastic garbage cans (the large ones like you put out at the curb), cut down and holes drilled. If the containers are not beautiful you can always bury them.

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Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 8:32 am
Location: Hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Make sure you have a plan for watering and caring for the plants. Potted plants will need frequent watering, almost daily, so make sure you have a water source nearby and a drip system really helps.

Plants grow and they will get bigger over time. Select natives but look for natives that have nice shapes that do not require much pruning. Succulents are good choices because they can take the heat, do not require much water and grow relatively slowly.

Besides watering, potted plants will be totally dependent on you for fertilizer, so make sure they are fed regularly. I use a slow release fertilizer like nutracote type 200. It can be applied once a year. Osmocote is another slow release fertilizer but it releases the fertilizer faster in temps higher than 80 degrees F., so expect that a 6 month slow release osmocote will only effectively last for 3 months.

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