Short on space? If you live in an apartment, town house or just don’t have a large section for a garden, container gardening may be the solution. It’s possible to grow veggies, flowers, herbs, fruit trees, indoor plants and shrubs in containers. In this blog post, I’ve put together some tips to help you with growing plants in pots.
What can be used as a container?
o Plastic buckets – at around a dollar, they are perhaps the most economical garden pot. These have a 9 litre capacity. Remember to drill drainage holes at the bottom beforehand (more about this below)
o Plastic pots – these come in a range of sizes. Most of ours are either 9, 18, 30 or 35 litre in size
o Plastic troughs – these are fantastic for growing bedding flowers such as begonias, marigolds and pansies in summer. This winter, I have planted Iris Reticulata, hyacinth and tete-a-tete daffodils in ours
o Outdoor cups and saucers – you can either plant directly into the teacup or put your plant into a plastic pot which sits inside the cup
o Terracotta pots – these make a stunning addition to the garden, either painted or au naturel. I planted some dwarf freesias in our large terracotta pot that my mother received for her 40th birthday many years ago
o Wine barrels – we varnished ours with polyurethane, drilled holes at the bottom and lined them with black plastic (again, with holes for drainage) before planting miniature fruit trees.
o Hanging baskets – We have these both in plastic and coconut fibre. I like to line the coconut fibre ones with black plastic (with some holes for drainage) prior to planting
It is important that your container has drainage holes to allow excess water to escape, otherwise your pot will become water-logged. It’s up to you whether you use a saucer at the bottom of your container. I tend to do so only if the holes at the bottom of the pot are enormous as the soil will escape, otherwise I find excess water tends to sit in the saucer and collect rather than drain freely onto the concrete.
The golden rule is to never use soil for growing plants in containers. It’s a good idea to use some kind of potting mixture. For fruit trees, I recommend a more expensive container mix that contains water storage crystals for moisture retention (more about this below). For other plants, it’s fine to use a cheaper potting mixture.
o Water storage crystals – as containers tend to dry out quicker than soil in the ground, you may wish to use something to help retain moisture, especially during summer. I find that a scoop of Saturaid works wonders in my hanging baskets with tomatoes over the summer months
o Slow release fertiliser – potted plants benefit from slow release fertiliser, which, depending on the brand you use, will feed them on average for six months. Don’t use granular bagged fertiliser for your containers. Use these instead for the ground
o Liquid feeding – your plants will benefit from being liquid fed every fortnight with a product such as Seasol, which is organic and made of seaweed extracts
o Weeding – weeds grow in containers too, so make sure you keep on top of them as they deprive the plant of essential nutrients
o Staking – larger plants such as fruit trees may require some form of plant support
o Repotting – don’t forget to repot your plant into a larger container if it outgrows its pot. If you are growing bulbs in containers, make sure you wait for the foliage to die down before lifting the bulbs, washing and drying them, before storing them for replanting next year