Container Gardening - Growing Plants in Pots Perfect for the Patio.

Assorted Containers

Assorted Containers

Container gardening - or growing plants in pots - has seen a huge increase in popularity during the last ten years. The reasons for the increased popularity of growing plants in pots are many and varied. Container compost for pot grown plants have improved; the range of plants available for containers has increased; container gardening it is an 'easy' way to garden; you can have colourful plants nearer to the house etc etc etc.

Plants in pots and tubs also make for great colour photographs - the gardening magazines love them. It helps to 'brighten up' magazines and books. You can also have a 'container garden' wherever you want it to be, and change the containers round regularly.

More or less any plant can be grown in a container, and when you think of it, most plants that you purchase these days have been grown at the nursery in some form of container (pot) or other. Vegetables in Containers are entirely practicable and productive.

You can go for a single plant option - like the fuchsia in the stone pot below, or absolutely blitz your containers with a wide range of bedding plants. Tubs love this approach as you can see!

Urn of Flowers  Busy Lizzies at Pub

There are several points to bear in mind for successful container gardening. Not too many plants in the container. Very often, a couple of plants will take up as much space as six or seven plants put in one container. A good example of this is seen below. The left hand picture is of barrels planted up with up to twelve plant in each, whereas the right hand urn simply has two plants (Diascias) to make a brilliant display.

Barrels of bedding plants A stone urn full of Diascias

Assuming that we are going for brightly coloured annuals, then make sure that you have a good quality multi-purpose compost in the pot, add some water-retentive gel crystals - they work - and if the pot us likely to be porous such as the terra cotta pots, then line it with plastic first. (Hole for drainage in bottom please). If you have bought a plastic patio pot, make sure that the drainage holes have been drilled out.

The more plants you cram into your pot, the more likely it is that they will not grow to full size. For instance, a container with a diameter across of say 40cm (14in) will need no more than a single Fuchsia or Geranium in centre, 3-4 Petunias/Bizzy Lizzies/Verbena etc and 2-3 lobelia.

If you have a pot as described above, with a total of 6-7 plants, it will require watering maybe twice each day in hot summer. If you are out at work, do bear this in mind. When you make up the pot, then add water retentive gel to the compost. If you group your pots close together, they will help to shield each other from the heat of the sun. Put them in dappled shade, stand them in a waterproof saucer filled with water in the mornings, ask a neighbour (Last resort!),

So - not too many plants, a good compost, attention to feed (very important) and water, water, water - even more important.

Container Gardening Types

Acer Trees

Acer Tree Inaba Shidare

Acer Trees

Acer Trees / Japanese Maples are ideal for the Patio and the edge of a Pond. Acer trees live very happily in pots and containers for 30 - 40 years.

Acers vibrant colours from their ever changing leaves and colourful barks makes them the United Kingdoms favourite plants.

Acers grow to the size of their pots, if you want to keep them small, keep them in a small pot.

Hanging Baskets Window Boxes

Hanging baskets

The Chocolate Vine

Window box and hanging basket gardening can be done by almost anyone. It is probably the most versatile and rewarding use of space - other than possibly 'vertical' gardening. Even then, window boxes can be included in a wall garden. Using boxes and containers is a good way to produce flower - and fruit and veg - if you are short of garden space.

The main thing that window boxes and hanging baskets have in common, is the fact that they generally have a smaller amount of soil for the plants to grow in than do normal patio pots - or of course the garden proper. This minimal amount of soil, then leads us to planting many of the same plant types in both hanging baskets and window boxes. Often when planting up for the spring or autumn, there is a choice to be made for a 'special' plant - box or basket!

Preparation of Window Boxes and Hanging Baskets

Hanging Baskets

Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are different to patio containers in that they normally have less volume for potting compost. The ratio of soil to plant is greatly reduced - especially as we tend to cram as many plants as posible into hanging baskets and window boxes! (I am as guilty as anyone on this.)

This can lead to problems and disappointment with hanging baskets and window boxes, as they can dry out easily, or run out of food for the plants with the small amount of compost available.

It is important to use good quality potting compost or maybe even a specially-prepared hanging basket compost.

Basic Plants for Hanging Baskets

Assorted Petunias

Assorted Petunias

It is always good to try to get height in a hanging basket, but also think of the fact that your hanging basket will normally be seen from below, so trailing and low plants are also important for a successful hanging basket. Good plants for centrepiece height include geraniums and bush fuchsias.

I like to plant one of each. Both geraniums and fuchsias will grow up through the chains of the basket, which in turn will help to support them. Down a level from this and you can plant a wide range of bedding plants around the centre of the hanging basket. They will grow upwards and outward and can include plants such as petunias, marigolds, tuberous begonias, busy lizzies. In fact anything that you would normally plant for mid height bedding.

Permanent Planting of Window Boxes

Assorted Herbs

Assorted Herbs

Window boxes have so little room for compost, making it difficult to maintain good growing conditions for permanent plantings. However, plants like ivies, conifers and heathers will do well for a while, but not really for a few years in the same container.

(It is far better to plant the window box up just once each year maybe twice if you want a good deal of colour throughout the year.)

Even by having one conifer in a box long term, you can run into problems, for the root system will soon take over all available space. This will make it almost impossible to add extra plants throughout the year, or to maintain healthy plants with the others in the same box.

The obvious way to overcome this is to have the largest possible window box - with the least number of plants. This goes against practicalities with a narrow window ledge - and against human nature to 'skimp' on planting.

Winter Colour in Baskets and Window boxes

Winter Pansy flowers

Winter Pansy flowers

Winter need not be a dull period for garden colour. Window boxes and hanging baskets can be planted up with colourful Flowers and plants to fill the gap.

Hanging baskets normally take a bit of punishment in the winter owing to windswept situations on house walls, and surprisingly drying out after not being watered!

Windy conditions, such as we normally get in the winter, will dry the compost out almost as quickly as a hot summer day - and will give your flowers a bit of a bashing! Place the basket or window box in the most sheltered position - but with plenty of light. Try to avoid those places under a bay window overhang etc.

Winter Flowering Pansies Violas

Drooping Pansy

Drooping Pansy

Winter flowering pansies and violas are by far the best option for surefire flower power in the winter months. They need little in the way of care, but there are several points to bear in mind in order to get the best show of flowers through the winter.

Universal winter pansies were the first real winter flowering plant to be worthy of the name, though several, types of Violas have always been food for a bit of winter cheer. The brand name of universal pansies will be withdrawn for some reason this year - 2014 - so there might be a little confusion as to what us really a winter pansy.

Vegetables in Containers

Assorted Carrots

Assorted Carrots

Most common vegetables can be grown in all manner of pots and other containers. For many homeowners, growing vegetables in containers is the only way forward because of lack of garden soil space.

Choose the right container, compost and varieties of vegetables to grow and there is no reason whatever why you cannot enjoy your own grown vegetables for virtually every month of the year. Growing vegetable crops in this manner presents very few problems, and the crops are often easier to manage and grow to fruition.




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