~ On the to-do list this spring from the Mini Garden Guru blog! We’re not just an online Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center store, we’ve been freely sharing, writing and teaching about all things gardening in miniature, since 2001.
And it’s time to clean up your container gardens! It doesn’t really matter if it’s a regular container garden or if it’s a miniature garden, they’ve been sitting all winter and are now ready to prep and grow for Spring – Yay!
So here’s a checklist to help you get a jump on your spring cleaning:
1. Check to see if roots are growing out of the bottom of the container. If so, it’s time to re-pot. Depending on what is planted, divide the plants and replant them. This will maintain the same mini garden design – or use this opportunity to try something a bit different. You can even make two matching pots, swap plants with your gardener friends, or plant any extra plants in the garden bed for some continuity throughout your garden beds
2. Trim back any dead or leggy branches on your trees or bedding plants. The dead branches should be easy to see, if not just wiggle them to check to see if they are still alive. For most plants, you’ll see new growth along the leggy-branch so cut just above that new growth. This is “general” info! Google, “How do I prune my _____” for more precise information.
3. In spring, in drier climes, the garden soil may develop a crusty layer on the top that will redirect the water toward the sides of the pot, away from the plant’s roots. Use a garden fork or weeder to break up this crusty layer of soil so the water will be redirected evenly throughout the garden and the roots will get much needed moisture.
Give it Air
4. If re-potting is not required, poke a stick deep into the pot to aerate the soil around the root balls. The soil gets compacted when it has been planted for a couple of seasons and this will help get air and water to the roots.
Get Rid of the Dieback
5. Check for “conifer dieback.” When miniature and dwarf spruces shed their foliage, it often gets stuck in the middle of the plant, eventually suffocating and killing it. Slough off this dead foliage to the ground with your fingers, then clean up the dead needles around the base of the tree.
Check for Pests
6. Look for snails and slugs around the base, bottom and sides of your container. Remove any debris on the soil – it’s where the snails and slugs like to hide. If you see leaves that are already chewed, look for that snail! He’s around somewhere. They may still be dormant if the area is cool. Also check under the lip/edge of the pot, underneath the foliage, the back of the garden beds and in the damp, shady areas close to the house or sometimes on the house. Some gardeners toss them in a pail of soapy water or salt them to kill them. I toss mine in an out-of-the-way place in our back garden and they can find something else to munch on.
7. If the garden is older than two years, sprinkle some general, organic fertilizer on top and mix it in to the top layer of the soil. Repeat this in mid-summer only if you see your plants need it, otherwise it’s a miniature garden and we don’t want the plants to grow more than they should.
Polish It Up
8. Wipe the outside of the pot with a soft cloth. Get rid of scratches on ceramic surfaces with a little car-wax-polish. If the pot is past its prime, group it with other pots to hide it.
9. Water the garden thoroughly. Remember to always deep-water your established miniature garden containers by watering it until you see the water draining out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. If you’ve built a permanent mini patio in your miniature garden, thoroughly drench it at least once a month, (once a week in the hot months!) and will keep the soil hydrated throughout the container.
REMEMBER to watch out for your dormant, deciduous perennial plants before digging. Too many times, I’ve said to myself, “Gee, there’s a spot I could try another plant in!” only to dig-into a deciduous plant that I forgot was there.
Some plants are slower to emerge than others so dig carefully if you’re doing any spring transplanting in an established miniature garden. Mini Astilbe, Mini Iris, Mini Geraniums, Mini Lilies, are just of few of the deciduous perennials that we love to grow in our miniature gardens – that may not be showing yet, especially if you’re having a very cool spring. (See our Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center store for what’s in stock right now.)
Got questions? Leave a comment below!
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I still haven’t gotten started on my miniature — If I get a Conifer for my basic tree, how deep should my container be for my miniature to last a few years?
For a tropical indoor miniature, what would my basic (tree) be, and how deep should the pot be?
Thanks a million — I will keep you informed as to my progress.
Hi Janit – I live in Minnesota and can’t do an in ground mini garden because I live in a townhome. My question is can I buy the outdoor trees that are rated for my zone and overwinter them in a pot? If so do you have any articles about this or give me some information? There are some love trees & bushes I want but they will not survice inside through the winter. I tried this year and have just about killed a couple of lovely evergreen bushes.
Thank you for any help you give or point me towards.
Here are some articles from previous posts that will help get you started:
How to find plants that will work in your zone:
A few examples of really hardy trees – you don’t have to worry about over-wintering the miniature garden if you choose plants that can handle your winter temperatures:
NOTE: indoor plants are much different than outdoor plants and should be treated as such. Some of our plants, like the Monteray Cypress, can be grown indoors for the winter, and left outside in the summer. Most of our indoor plants can be used this way: https://shop.twogreenthumbs.com/Plants-for-Indoors_c68.htm
And here’s another blog post on bringing the outside in, in the fall: ;o)
I live in Wisconsin, and I have several container gardens. It’s as Janit teaches, buy plants rated for your area. If you buy plants that are not suitable for the cold we get, think of them as annuals.
I remove all of my accessories and put in warm area, my basement. My patios survived very well, I just learned from Janit to water them more.
I found the niftiest little garden tool ever. Rather than use an often too large garden fork, an actual kitchen fork with bent tongs or not, works great for weeding out moss, fluffing up soil, etc around tiny little plants.
Hi Sandy, Good to hear from you! We’ve been using forks for rakes and spoons for shovels since we started miniature gardening back in 2001. I still get a laugh when I mention it during my presentations. Remember to bend at the knuckle too, not your back. :o)
I am starting my 1:12 miniature village this spring 38′ X27′ and am wondering how to make trails to blend in yet be able to get into it for weeding without stepping on plants. I will have a farm, church, formal house, cabin by a lake, a master gardener’s house, zoo, and a playground. Next year I’m working on the town: PO, cafe, barber shop, grocery and gas station. I bought some trees, shrub and ground covers from you in the fall and they are doing great.
Hi Pat, We use our Mini Patio Mix Kit to make permanent patios that don’t wash away and this is what we step upon. Design your patios and pathways with that in mind so you can step through the garden easily and comfortably. Also leave yourself a spot to sit in spots throughout the garden – you’re going to need to space for weeding. (Another handy tip is to use your old bedroom pillows to sit on instead of throwing them away. It’ll get dirty but it sure is comfy!)
I have a “make-a-lake” project in my first Gardening in Miniature book which will be helpful. The books is chock-a-block full of advice and ideas if you have yet to get a copy.
Email me for a faster response if you like. Can’t post it here bc of spam but you can access it through my website :o)