Container Gardening Made Easy
Containers can be an ideal way to bring colour and interest to a small garden, a front garden or a terrace and are great for masking or brightening up dull areas.
Another useful characteristic of the container is the fact you can move it until you find its perfect spot or if the plant shows signs of not being happy. If you are using heavy containers this only works if you remember to put the pot on a caddie or trolley before planting it up which I frequently fail to do. If you don’t want to invest in pot trollies then remember to position the pot where you want it to stay before planting up.
- Make sure your container has enough drainage, broken crocks in the bottom will stop soil clogging up drainage holes and help create a little reservoir in summer.
- If you have any homemade compost, putting some at the base of the pot also helps with drainage and soil condition.
- Don’t use garden soil, a peat free compost is ideal and many come with added plant feed.
It is usually best to plant in early spring so the plant can get itself established and put out roots. Autumn planting can be chancy because bad weather can waterlog or dry out soil or windburn plants.
Plants in containers do need more care than those in gardens, but they’re worth it.
Containers benefit from a top dressing of compost in the spring to give the soil a boost and this, along with a good liquid feed, will give the plant a good start to the year.
Because its roots are contained, regular watering is essential, rain or shine because rain cannot always permeate the soil in a container and while the rest of the garden maybe sodden the pots can be desperate for a drink.
This is particularly important with bay trees in pots, I have lost count of the number of bay trees I have seen outside front doors, shops and restaurants which are in desperate need of a good water. I am far too cowardly to point this out to the plant owner but believe me it is pretty much impossible to overwater a bay tree and if you do give it a daily drink it will flourish.
Terracotta pots are lovely and age well but can crack in very low temperatures and tend to be expensive. These days it is possible to buy really attractive lead look and other pots made from resin and some heavy plastics, these are not just good value but can be considerably lighter and much easier to manoeuvre. This type of pot will often need extra drainage holes so double check before planting.
What to plant?
Plants that do well in containers include large grasses for which you might not have room in a bed. Panicum virgatum (switch grass) Heavy Metal is an attractive variety.
Herbs are also a good bet because many need really good drainage and a sunny spot. Chives often thrive as does parsley as long as the container is extra deep to allow for long roots.
Finally if you would love a pond but just don’t have the space, you may want to consider a pot pond. The one above is a terracotta pot which has been painted inside with waterproof sealant, the hole is plugged and sealed and the base is lined with large stones. It has been planted up with Yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) in pots of aquatic compost and left to get on with it: they come back year after year. Apart from topping up with rain water and the removal of dead leaves the pot pond needs almost no maintenance.