**How to Create and Care for Dish Gardens**
Gardening Made Easy
While expensive gifts are nice to give and to receive, why not add a little
something extra this year to let someone special that they are extra
special? Probably the most valuable commodity that anyone has
these days is time. Doesn't it therefore follow, that possibly the best gift
of all would be a little bit of your time? Two or three hours is all that
would be needed, to take a quick trip to the garden shop, pick up your
materials, return home and put together a simple dish garden.
of this time may well be spent on choosing just the right container, accents,
ad plants, because the actual construction of dish garden is really quite
simple and quick.
Choosing a Dish Garden Planter
Your dish garden should be planted in
an open, shallow container. The size is only relevant to the extent of how
many (or few) plants it will be able to support. It is helpful if
there are drainage holes in the container, but not necessary if there is
sufficient depth to facilitate adding a gravel layer for drainage.
Most garden centers will have a good variety of ceramic dishes made just for
this purpose. Personally, I prefer dishes with a bit more personality than
the standard, round bowl "look".
Dish Garden Planters and Accents
A few minutes wandering down the
aisles of a second hand store, or a "dollar store" (maybe even out
in your own garage) will probably reveal the perfect base for your project.
Often you will find products which are designed for other uses, but are
perfect as a dish garden. You will be surprised at what you may find. As you
look for the perfect planter, keep an eye opened for miniature garden accents
that may be appropriate.
* Among other things, I once discovered a ten inch
wheelbarrow with a set of miniature tools. Although it was made to be an
ornament on its own, this was a perfect planter for the gardener in the house.
* Any basket, old or new, can be used by simply placing a non-draining
container inside of it.
* For the fisherman... an old fishing creel can be easily lined with plastic
and planted, or used to simply cover your actual planting container.
* Dollar stores always seem to have a few mini-planters depicting a deer, a
duck, a cow or a truck. Although they are usually only suited for a single
small plant (which usually outgrows it quickly,) they are sure to bring an
* Small logs can be hollowed out... A great home for a small fern forest.
* Adobe bowls look great as "cactus scapes", when filled with small
* A rusted milk can, old boot, even an old pet dish can be given a new use in
* The ultimate
dish garden, of course is a terrarium, which is
easily made from old aquariums or jars.
Choosing Appropriate Dish Gardening Plants
because dish gardens typically have limited root space, the plants will tend to
outgrow their home rather quickly. For this reason, it is a good idea to choose
slow growing plants to prevent having to replace them too often. Choose plants
which have the same general lighting and water requirements as your other
Setting Up and Planting Your Dish Garden
Adequate drainage is probably the most important provision
to ensure the success of your dish garden.
The best method of draining the excess water from the soil,
is through drainage holes in the bottom of the planter. The hole(s) should be
covered with a piece of broken pottery or a screen patch, to prevent the soil
from washing out. This type of planter will require placing a water tight tray
under the garden, to protect the table or other surfaces from water damage.
In situations where there is no external drainage, you will have to cover the
bottom of the container with a minimum of a one to two inch layer of pea gravel
or coarse charcoal. The gravel should then be covered with a piece of nylon
stocking or window screen to keep the soil from sifting down into the gravel,
rendering it useless for drainage.
Use a good commercial potting soil, to which you have added
coarse sand or perlite to aid in the drainage. Add a sufficient layer of this
soil mix, so that when you set the new plants in place, their soil level will
be about 1/2 inch below the rim of the planter.
Landscaping your Dish Garden
If the planter is sufficiently large, you may create
different levels of terrain within your garden. Firm this soil layer lightly.
Without removing the plants from their pots, try different planting
arrangements. Don't forget to consider any garden "accents" which you
plan to use, during this planning stage.
Arrange the plants according to how
the dish garden is most likely to be viewed. As a centerpiece, for example,
you would want the tallest plant in the center, so that the display would be
viewable from all angles. If the garden will only be seen from one vantage
point, however, you would want the tallest plants in the rear. Don't
over-plant your garden for the sake of having it look immediately full. By
adding fewer plants, you will have a healthier garden which will fill in
quickly, and last much longer.
Adding Plants to Your Dish Garden
Make sure that the plants are
thoroughly watered before proceeding!
Once you have your master plan worked out, you are ready to
plant and landscape your dish garden. The plants can be easily removed from
their pots, with their entire root structure unscathed, and ready for planting.
Support the plant by placing your fingers over the soil,
forming a 'V' around, but not touching the stem of the plant. Turn the entire
plant over, and give the pot a light rap with a screwdriver handle. This should
dislodge the root ball, allowing the pot to be easily lifted off.
Normally, at this point of transplanting any
potted plant, you would want to lightly loosen the
outer roots of the ball. Because a slow growth rate is desired in most dish
gardens, it is better to just leave the roots alone in this case. Remove the
pots from two or three of your plants at a time, beginning with the tallest
plants first. Set these plants into position, making any final adjustments as
to where they will "face". Fill in around each plant with fresh
planting mix, and then continue with this process until all of the plants are
in place. Add more soil as needed to fill in areas. Pack the soil gently, and
water it lightly.
You can top the soil with a mulch of fine bark or small
gravel. Accents like small twigs and stones can be used to hide any bare plant
stems, or to highlight an area of the garden. Any other ornaments you choose to
add to your landscape, will add to the artistry, the character, and the
Your dish garden should be kept in a spot where it will receive the correct
amount of light for the chosen plants. "Full sun" type dish gardens
should be gradually adjusted to their permanent window area to prevent sun
burn. Place them in bright, indirect light first. Each day, for a week, move
them closer, until they are in the "full sun" spot.
Watering and Caring for Your Dish Garden
Allow the soil in your dish garden to become nearly
dry, before you add a small amount of water again (start with a cup or
so...). Never allow the soil to become too dry, or too soggy.
Experience will quickly teach you how much, and how often to water.
Generally you will not have to fertilize your dish garden.
The plants will seldom be in place long enough to deplete the nutrients from
their soil, before they are moved on to a bigger planter. Of course, if the
plants have been in the same soil for too long you can feed them, but use a VERY dilute 1/4
strength liquid house plant food.
With a little care, your dish garden will become an ornament
for your home, and a living memory.