There are many types of containers made of different materials and good reasons for using each in different circumstances and growing conditions. This we know, especially when we start out and choices can be confusing. Repurposing houseware items make fun garden containers, for instance old teapots, boots, enamel dishes or tins (remember drainage holes!) While it seems that everything has been used and there are no new ideas out there, that will not matter. If an idea is new to you, go for it, so what if it’s been done before! The important thing is that you are doing it now … and bringing a bit of whimsy into your garden space does wonders for a gardener’s heart!
There are many types of containers made of different materials and good reasons for using each in different circumstances and growing conditions. This we know, especially when we start out and choices can be confusing. Repurposing items from your home make fun garden containers, for instance old teapots, boots, enamel dishes or tins. While it seems that everything has been used and there are no new ideas out there, it will not matter. If an idea is new to you, go for it, so what if it’s been done before. The important thing is that you are doing it now … and bringing a bit of whimsy into your garden space does wonders for a gardener’s heart!
Your container gardening hardware also needs maintenance and ‘weeding’. At the end of your growing season, or the end of a plant's use or at the change of seasons, be sure to clean and tidy up. Empty and rinse out pots not in use (vinegar water is good for this), use them as you wish or over-winter them in a dry, not freezing, place (especially if the containers are older or not frost-proof). Past a sell-by date? Be ruthless - your container garden relies on you to maintain standards and cracked or ugly pots should be sent to pot heaven.
When choosing which flowering plants to grow in your containers, there are so many out there that a person just has to go with their favourite favourites … but don’t forget about foliage ‘only’ plants, or plants whose beauty lies more in their leaves than in any flowers they may produce. Leaf shapes, colour combinations and variety will surprise you once you start looking around.
As you know you don’t use garden ground in your pots – there would be just too much wrong with this for your containers. When setting out, buy good a good potting soil and compost (that suits your plant choices) and remember that even though this is a good base – you will need to supplement on a regular basis with fertilisers and other soil additives and enhancers such as micro nutrients and bone meal.
Everyone knows that succulents and cacti need excellent drainage and grow best in porous soils (not as for Bonsai) but more loose than not. If you grow these gorgeous plants don’t add compost but add river sand as a first choice or builders sand as a second choice. I am not sure what additives or chemicals are to be found in builders sand so that is why I suggest river sand. The best of course is to use cacti-specific potting mix which is readily available at the garden centres.
Do you use Epsom salts in your containers? The jury still seems to be out on this one. ‘My granny did, so I do’ is often heard. Some say that if you use Epsom salts your plants may get all of the required nutrients adequately because this product contains magnesium which is a mineral that promotes growth. Adding it enhances the absorption of basic nutrients (like nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur) which are found in the soil. Others say this is nonsense and that Epsom salts is a myth in terms of what it is supposed to do.
I water my containers 3 times a year with an Epsom salts solution – and have never had any trouble with my plants. And yes, my roses and tomatoes (particularly) love it, my yields of blossoms and fruit is great. My granny did and so do I.
To make container gardening as simple as possible, when choosing plants for your containers make sure that they work well together. This means that all the plants in the same pot should require the same or very similar growing conditions … soil, light, water. If you combine plants with different needs (just because they look pretty together), some of them will not thrive, may die and you will need to work harder to look after your container garden.
Everybody I know loves daisies and daisy bushes – they look cheerful and fill containers well BUT they need to be looked after. As with flowering plants in general, they need to be dead-headed regularly. It’s just part of the standard maintenance required to keep your containers in tip-top shape. Dead-heading (removing spent flowers) will encourage more flowering and healthy plants (besides giving you too many seeds than you can use!) Do it daily and it will never be a chore.