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Container Gardening

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Container Gardening, Potting plants, How to pot plants,
Potted Osteospermum

Pots and troughs are a great way to bring colour and interest to patios and gardens.

As the weather is warming up we may find ourselves heading to garden centres to add some new life and colour to our gardens.

This is exactly what we did this weekend and as I was planting up a pot, I thought that it might be useful to share with you a few tips and tricks to help ensure that your containers thrive and bring you joy all summer long.

Choosing your Gardening container.

Any sort of container can be used to plant pots - in our garden we use a collection of pots collected or salvaged over the years and an old Belfast sink.

Basically, if it can hold soil, you can plant it up.

The most important thing to make sure is that any container you choose has a hole in the bottom to allow for sufficient drainage to ensure that the plants don't drown.

Container Gardening
An Old Belfast Sink filled with Peat free compost and then planted with Geranium, Leucanthemum, Tiarella, Veronicastrum and Polemonium.

Preparing your pot.

It's always a good idea to start by putting a few pieces of hard material in the bottom of the pot as this will help assist with the drainage by making sure that the hole does not get blocked by soil.

You can use pieces of broken pots, large pebbles or 2-3cm of gravel around and over the drainage hole.

Choosing your compost.

When filling your pot you want to ensure that you use a mix of topsoil and compost.

A common mistake that people make is to fill containers exclusively with compost, but it is very important that you add topsoil to the mix.

Here's the science part.....

Topsoil contains important minerals that are essential for plant growth.

It also contains rocks and particles of stones which provide structure to the soil. This structure allows air to circulate in the soil and also helps to ensure drainage.

Your compost may be made up of leaf mould, farm waste, composted bark and wood fibre and is added to give the container a nutrient boost.

If used by itself, over time the plants will eat all the nutrients and the structure will collapse.

There are a couple of ways that you can achieve this.

You can either buy topsoil and compost separately and mix them to a ratio of roughly 2 parts topsoil to 1 part compost (you don't have to be too precious about it) or there are ready-mixed products that you can buy.

We recommend Melcourt Sylvagrow with John Innes No 3 which is a peat free compost with added minerals. Remember to buy peat free compost whichever method you choose.

Top Tip - Don't fill your pot right to the top - leave 3- 5 cm of room at the top of the pot. This will help keep things clean when watering, but will also allow you room to add a layer of compost at the end of each season to help replenish the nutrients without disturbing the plants.

Choosing your plants.

Most plants do well in containers and they can be very useful in helping limit the size of shrubs or trees that might tend to get out of control.

Choose whatever makes you happy.

Cosmos is one of our favourite annuals that is guaranteed to bring joy, geraniums always look stunning when they spill over the edge of containers, or a collection of perennials can create beautiful displays throughout the year.

When you are choosing your plants, keep in mind where they are going to sit - e.g. in the shade or in the sun and choose your plants accordingly. This is important in making sure your plants have the perfect space to grow.

If you are going down the perennial route, make sure the plants you choose are happy to live together. Picking plants that need similar amounts of water and enjoy the same aspect is important to providing the perfect growing envrionment.

Gardens Illustrated have just published a special edition guide to container gardening which is well worth buying if you want some great ideas on plant combinations.

Why not check out our blog on easy plants to grow in your garden for more advice on picking the perfect plants.

Where to Place your Plant Pots

Place your pots wherever there is space.

Plant junkies like Jake and myself will find and use every possible space in our garden to get more plants in.

We have pots along the edge of the patio, tucked into corners and strategically placed throughout the beds themselves which is a great way to get varying heights in your garden.

Top tip - Buy some pot feet - these are usually a couple of quid a piece from garden centres and go underneath the pot to raise it off the ground. For most size pots you will need 3 feet to ensure the plant is stable and these help prevent the pots from sitting in stagnant water and give an added boost to drainage.

Important! Remember to water pots regularly in dry weather as they will dry out more quickly than your bed.

Happy gardening!

Jake and Karen.

Melcourt compost, compost center, planting flowers, planting flowers in pots
2 parts topsoil to 1 part compost

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