EDITOR’S NOTE: Seminars featuring gardening experts and ‘how to’ workshops will be featured during the 2011 Ellis County Master Gardeners Lawn & Garden Expo, set for 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday, March 26 at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

Late February or early March are great times to get your potted plants and baskets started for super summer blooms.

There are lots of plants available both at our local stores and the upcoming 11th Annual Master Gardeners Lawn & Garden Expo.  The challenge will be getting them started so they will take off and survive the hot months too!

Begin with a clean container and good soil.  I reuse my pots and baskets but wash them with soap and water first and then give them a good fungus buster soak in Clorox rich water (two tablespoons per gallon will do it).  Any good potting soil will work. 

You can mix it with garden loam or compost half and half; just try to avoid our sticky clay!  Containers must drain well. 

Standard design theory for containers is work in sets of three—one type to hang down, one to fill and one to thrill (up high).  Plants should be similar in water and sun needs as well as varied enough to give some contrast as to height and color.

Be careful to choose plants that like somewhat the same amount of water and sun.  Shade loving plants coupled with sun lovers will leave one of their numbers struggling.

Containers that have a “heavy drinker” next to a “non-drinker” don’t seem to fare too well either.  Once the choices are made, soak all the plants right before planting for 10 minutes or so. 

A bit longer won’t hurt, but don’t drown them by leaving them for days! 

Once they are out of the pot, check the roots.  If they are tightly packed or growing round the bottom, break the root up to loosen them and stimulate new growth.  If they are growing out the bottom of the container, you may have to take scissors or clippers to them. 

I “butterfly” packed roots and spread them out in the new container.  It will encourage a strong base for further growth. 

Plant those baby plants high in the container, but still be sure to cover the root ball. Water thoroughly and stand back.

I go the extra mile by lightly watering each day for a full week while the plants recover from the shock of moving.  You don’t have to flood new plants. 

Remember the roots weren’t too far under the surface when you planted them!  Check after a week and water as needed.  I fertilize my containers at least once a week with a diluted liquid fertilizer.  Containers, if properly planted, drain well and also have a lot of roots in a confined space. 

Watch when the heat turns up for signs of wilting.  Hot afternoons will wilt even some of the hardiest ones, but my clue for prompt watering is when the wilted ones hold over into the cool morning hours.

Containers can have edible herbs combined with blooms.  Creeping Rosemary, Pineapple Sage and ornamental Cabbage or Kale all like to be relatively dry and can rejoice in bright sun. 

Come check out the hanging baskets at the Master Gardeners’ plant sale booth at the EXPO March 26 or get some of their great plants and design your own!

Get your free tickets at an Expo Sponsor; visit www.ecmga.com for a complete list.

See you Saturday, March 26, from 9 a.m. -5 p.m. at the Waxahachie Civic Center.