Containers and Planters
Containers and planters are useful in areas where traditional gardening techniques can not be used.
For example, a window sill, balcony, patio or a garden area where the soil is contaminated, water-logged or of poor quality.
Containers come in various shapes and sizes, and are made of both natural and synthetic materials.
Their contents can be equally varied for example; fruit, flowers, vegetables, shrubs, or indeed scented herbs to be used both as a feature and for use in the kitchen.
In fact it may be said that the only limitation is the growers imagination.
Selection of Pot sizes
However, as with most gardening processes a few procedures must be adhered to to achieve success!
for example; Container type, plant selection, compost, feeding, watering and general aftercare.
Type and size:
As mentioned above, containers come in a variety of materials so when selecting the type there are a number of things to consider, for example;
Is it large enough to contain the rootball/s of the plants it is to hold?
If it is, will it be moveable after filling?
This is very important, particularly if it is to be moved indoors or undercover for the winter months.
Containers can dry out rapidly in the excess heat and wind, so the larger the container used the better.
If you choose a container that is to be wall mounted, is the wall construction suitable for holding brackets be fitted to?
Will the wall, fixings and brackets be of sufficient strength to carry the weight?
Containers can be quite heavy even when empty, imagine what it might weigh when full of moist compost and plants?
Wall mounted Containers
Is it weatherproof?
That is, some types are better suited to winter weather than others.
For example; wooden containers are better than plastic or fibreglass types as they offer better protection to the root ball/s.
Terracotta or ceramic containers should be frost proof otherwise they may succumb to freezing winter temperatures.
Various types of Containers
If you decide to use wooden containers, then it is beneficial to fit a plastic liner inside to prevent the wood from rotting.
Similarly,if small pots are to be used, choose those made from non-porous materials such as plastic or metal to reduce moisture loss.
Keep metal containers out of full sun or they may get over heat.
Consideration should be given to the possibility of moving containers to a protected spot for the winter months, so the overall weight should be considered.
Containers filled with peat-based or peat-substitute composts as opposed loam-based composts, are lighter to transport around, but equally this type of compost dries out more quickly.
This in turn can lead to instability as this lighter filling make the container more susceptible to being blown over in high winds.
As a compromise one could consider filling containers in exposed areas with loam/soil based compost rather than soil-less to give more stability, and those containers that may have to be moved for winter protection could be given a more shelterd spot and filled with a soil-less compost.
As a further insurance, containers in exposed areas should be well anchored to stop them from being blown over.
Keep the base of the pot off the ground by standing it on purpose made feet or bricks.
This allows surplus water to drain off and prevents the pot sitting in pools of water.
Pot laid over soakaway
Prior to filling the container with compost place 50mm (2”) of crocks, gravel, or broken up polystyrene in the base of the container.
During the filling process mix in a controlled slow-release fertiliser into the chosen compost to sustain the plants during the growing season.
The addition of grit to the compost will aid drainage.
Leave a gap of 25-50mm (2”-3”) between the top of the compost and the rim of the container to allow for watering.
Hardstanding decorated with many containerised plants
Watering / Feeding:
Containers will need watering all year round, except in freezing conditions, and possibly twice a day in summer.
Nutrients are washed out of the compost every time you water, so give a liquid feed at least once a week.
To prolong the flowering season, deadhead the plants by pinching off all withered flowers.
Leaving them on tends to encourage the plants to set seed and stop flowering.
Decorated Water butt
Where containers are sited against a wall or fence it is advisable to position larger plants towards the back of the container.
With isolated containers, locate taller plants in the centre of the container.
Remove weeds from containers / planters and top up with fresh compost as necessary.
If compost appears dry, apply water until excess moisture is seen draining away.
If no water is seen draining away, check drainage holes and clear any obstructions.
Containers can dry out very easily so regular watering is essential.
Make sure container plants do not want for moisture.
Hardware is available in garden centres to make watering suspended containers simpler.
If established containers remain waterlogged after watering, check that compost or roots have not blocked the drainage holes.
Regularly deadhead plants so that seed production cannot sap the plants' energy.
Apply liquid fertiliser on a regular basis to boost growth and flowering.
If bad weather prevents you working outside, check over your containers and give the sound ones a thorough clean.