Preparing a Garden Box for Spring Planting

By Heidi Green , last updated May 10, 2011

There are several things to consider when preparing a garden box for spring planting to ensure your plants stay healthy and happy throughout the year. Whether you've purchased a brand new garden box or you'll be reusing one from seasons past, there are several things you need to do. Follow these tips in order to prepare your garden box for spring planting.

Disinfecting

Many people overlook the step of disinfecting their garden box planters, but it's important. Sure, you're just going to be filling it with soil anyway, so it probably doesn't seem necessary to make sure it's clean, but it is. Plants and soil can carry disease, and if your planter has any trace of residue from last year's soil, you need to disinfect it so that any potential disease won't carry over into the new soil. It's also good practice to disinfect new containers. In order to disinfect your garden box, prepare a solution of nine parts water, one part bleach. If your planter is small enough, you can submerge it in the solution. Otherwise, wear rubber gloves and use a sponge to spread the solution over all surfaces of the planter. Let it soak for a minute or two, then rinse clean.

Protecting

It's important to protect your garden box planter from the elements so that it will last for many years to come. Before your spring planting, you should inspect your garden box for any signs of wear and tear, then take measures to prevent further damage. Wooden and metal planters can be lightly sanded and sprayed with waterproof clear coat to prevent water damage. If your garden box is painted, you can apply another coat of paint before spring to aid protection, but make sure it's waterproof. Another option is to line your garden box with plastic sheeting, which will protect the bottom and sides of your planter from warping and disintegrating from too much water exposure. If you do this, be sure to poke several holes in the bottom of the plastic liner to allow for adequate drainage.

Mounting

If you'll be mounting your garden box planter to a railing or wall, it's important to make sure it's well secured. Even if your garden box sits on the ground, it's a good idea to take measures to make sure it isn't toppled over during wind or storms. This is especially important if you garden on the balcony of a high rise condo or apartment building. Winds will be stronger in areas that are elevated, and you want to make sure your garden box will not fall on any passerby below. You can put heavy rocks or bricks in the bottom of larger garden boxes that will be sitting on a balcony or on the ground, which will keep them from toppling over. Window garden boxes and planters mounted on railings can be secured using sturdy bolts. For extra protection, utilize tie downs or bungee cords to secure your garden box planter.

Planting

The final step in preparing your garden box for spring planting is choosing the right soil and plants for your garden box. Before you start planting, come up with a plan. What will you plant in your garden box? If you're planting multiple plants, be sure they have similar soil and watering requirements, or consult a companion planting chart for ideas of what plants work well together. Deep rooted plants can often be paired with plants that have shallower root systems, which allows both to grow in harmony. Lettuce, for instance, grows well under the shade of taller tomato plants. It's important to choose an appropriate soil for the plants. It may be necessary to amend the soil with compost, peat moss or perlite in order to achieve proper nutrients and drainage. Be sure to read up on how to care for your plant, and take extra care not to plant too densely in your garden box. Though seedlings and young plants are small, they'll grow significantly over the season. When you add plants to your garden box, be sure to allow plenty of space for them to grow and mature. Crowding them into the planter will cause them to fight for space. It will also inhibit proper air circulation, which can lead to pests and disease. Be sure the soil line in your garden box is one to three inches below the lip of the container, which will allow you to water properly. Check your garden box daily to see if it needs watering, especially in hotter climates.

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