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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 10, 2020
Q. For tomatoes and flowers to do well in containers, what kind of soil mix do you recommend?
A. Many gardeners simply use a purchased potting blend and get satisfactory results. I’ve found that spending a little time plumping up a commercial mix pays off in extra vibrant, productive growth.
I start with a purchased mix such as Pro-Mix BX (stands for “Basic”). To it I add some real, sterilized, bagged soil along with a purchased compost such as fish compost and a slow release fertilizer. The soil and compost lend a certain “staying power” to the mix, adding to its ability to nurture plants over a long period.
Before I begin filling the containers, I check that they all have working drainage holes. To reduce weight and save on the planting mix when filling large containers , I put some sort of lightweight filler material at the pot bottoms.
That might be perlite, or some of the bagged wood shavings I always have on hand for spreading on back garden pathways. The shavings are the ones used for animal bedding. Then I begin adding my planting mixture.
When a pot is about half full I spread a light sprinkling of fertilizer and a thin layer of fish compost as a “feeding station” for lengthening plant roots before I fill the rest of the pot and firm the mix down gently, leaving a slight gap between the mix and the pot rim to accommodate watering. With that, the container is ready for transplants.
Q. What are the black and white striped insects that I see hovering over plants and flowers? They look like miniature wasps
A. They are most likely hover (syrphid) flies, one of the most beneficial insects in our gardens. They overwinter as pupae in the soil or under fallen leaves, and emerge early in the spring to feed on nectar and pollen from the first flowers. The eggs they lay among aphids hatch into larvae that feed voraciously on the aphids.
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