A dish garden is an arrangement of several different plants in a single container. It’s a great way to continue the gardening season indoors or add a new look to your indoor plants.
The container can be almost any shape or size and may be made of most any material. I prefer glass or terra cotta containers myself. I feel they are easier to clean and disinfect.
Finding a container is as much fun as planting the plants. You can look for colors, interesting sizes, and unique items that will make a pot. For example, an old shoe, lined to be waterproof. If you live in a log cabin or have a rustic theme on farm pieces would be nice. Like cars? An old hub cab would make a great container.
What makes dish garden fun and valuable to the house is that they can be easily placed at various places throughout your home. Some locations might include mantles, tables, pedestals, windowsills or a handmade plant holder.
I saw an unusual plant holder made out of an old floor lamp. Another was a metal art piece with wood for holding plants and stained glass displayed in loops in the metal sculpture. Glass pieces were included that reflected light and the plants.
The success or failure of dish gardens depends on the plants’ ability to adapt to a wide range of conditions. If you check in a plant book this will help you determine which plants will do better in dish containers.
Planting technique, type of container, soil mixture, watering and lighting are the most important considerations in assembling and caring for your dish garden.
Materials for constructing a dish garden:
The container may be round, square, oval, oblong or any other shape you desire. It may be made of any material from glass to clay pottery. If brass, copper or iron containers are used, they should always have some type of liner. Aluminum foil, a polyethylene bag or a plastic liner all suit this purpose very well.
I think any color is suitable for a container. Neutral colors fit in any surrounding but bright and unusual colors can make the entire dish become a focal point in the room.
It’s important to choose a container not less than 3 inches deep. Few containers provide drainage and most are too shallow for interesting plantings.
The ideal container should be deep enough for a one-inch layer of gravel and charcoal beneath the soil, plus at least 2 to 3 inches of planting soil.
Use a prepared potting soil or a mixture of one part sand or perlite, one part soil and one part peat moss. Add one level teaspoon of a 5-10-5 fertilizer for each six-inch pot of soil added.
Drainage is very important in a dish garden. Too much water will cause a plant to become unhealthy. Soil that is too wet indoors is also twice as susceptible to developing mold, which causes diseases. Use ¾ to 1 inch of a gravel charcoal mix. This will provide a proper drainage base and will help provide oxygen.
Three to six small plants, depending on container size, are usually sufficient to make a pleasing dish garden arrangement.
Assembling you dish container
v Select your container. Make sure it is at least 3 inches deep, but not more than 6 inches deep.
v Remember to line all metal containers.
v Add the necessary drainage material consisting of charcoal, gravel or crushed clay pots. There should be from ¾ to 1-inch of drainage material.
v Select and group plants according to similar growth requirements. For example, low light, high moisture plants in one container while high light, low moisture plants are grouped in another. This practice of grouping plants according to similar requirements is extremely important for a successful dish garden.
v In considering plant groupings, you must also take into account the leaf textures, colors and growth habits of the various plants. The most important goal is to have an attractive easy to care for dish container and color and texture in plants greatly adds to interest.
v When planning you dish arrangement it’s best to leave the plants in their containers. By doing this you will be able to try several different arrangements without injuring the plants. For a symmetrical planting, feature a tall plant in the center with shorter plants on either side. For an asymmetrical design, place the tallest plant off center, balanced by lower plants on the opposite side.
v Once you have decided on a pleasing arrangement, add from ½ to ¾-inch of soil on top of the gravel.
v Next, carefully remove the plants from their containers, arrange them in place and add soil. Do not set plants deeper than they were in their pots. Firm the soil around the plants and water thoroughly, but do not soak.
v Regular care of the dish garden will include regular watering according to requirements, thinning overgrown plants, and insect control.
Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy your dish garden.
I like to have several dish gardens in one spot on different levels to enjoy. Usually they have a theme and some sort of porcelain figurine nestled in the dish.
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