GARDENING: Do as I say, definitely not as I do!

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Just because I write about plants and make recommendations to the public about what to do and how to care for their plants doesn’t mean I always follow my own advice - at least in a timely fashion. That is. I get around to it eventually.

For instance, my container gardens are looking rough right now. They need some work and some fertilizer.

By work I mean trimming and removal of the dead and straggly growth. My petunias have gotten a bit overgrown from all the rain we have had. A quick haircut will have them looking great through the fall season.

If I don’t prune the petunias, I will end up letting the entire basket die. That’s how bad they look right now.

This is normal for containers and hanging baskets. Weather conditions, pest problems and lack of nutrients can lead to plants not looking their best right about this time of the growing season.

When this happens, all is not lost. Trimming plants back removes the old dead or straggly growth and encourages new growth.

Keep in mind the harder and further back you trim or prune, the longer it takes for plants to grow out again. On the other hand, sometimes a good hard pruning is just what the plants need to encourage growth.

I have pruned petunias back to a single leafless stem and had the plant recover. As long as the root system is healthy, the plant will grow.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

I used a 90-day slow-release fertilizer at planting. Technically it should go through the season, right? During a normal growing season, it may be fine.

This year, however, has been hot and wet, which leads to a lot of growth and use of the nutrients in the slow-release fertilizer.

The length of time is approximate. Watering, temperature, and even the type of soil can either slow the release down or speed it up. In this case, the fertilizer is likely used up by now.

Therefore, another dose of slow-release fertilizer will get these baskets back in order. If you are using liquids every so often, you may be in good shape in terms of nutrients.

By the way, don’t apply fertilizer to dry plants. Water thoroughly first and then fertilize. Fertilizers consist of salt and high salt content in dry soils can lead to root damage.

I have been fortunate this season in terms of pest control on the container plants. Japanese beetles are at a minimum and the ones that I find, I just squash.

A rejuvenation effort now goes a long way in keeping the container plants looking good and recovering for the fall season. I like to keep mine going until a freeze. This way I don’t have to plant new stuff for fall.

Now I am off to another meeting and unable to take care of my plants today. I will get it done hopefully this weekend.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at