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weather might be freezing outside, the gardeners amongst us are sat twiddling
their green thumbs waiting impatiently for the warmer months to quickly appear.
Add to this the thump of gardening catalogues landing on doorsteps and Monty
Don on your television screens…well you get the picture!
No matter how young or old a person if you love gardening this love will never disappear. What will unfortunately go is the ability to look after a garden; whether due to health or simply because a new home may not have a garden of its own.
There is however a way that you can still enjoy the simple pleasures of growing favourite plants (and even vegetables) and that is in containers. A small balcony or patio can be transformed with some beautifully planted pots whether they are brimming with flowers or full of Mediterranean herbs and salad leaves, it is just a question of following some simple rules.
Choose your container wisely
If it is beautiful without plants imagine what it would be like with them in! If you have always used plastic now is the time to look at other options; after all we are all trying to reduce the use of plastic! Traditional terracotta always looks classy and weathers beautifully, but you can also have metals, wood, stone, or sometimes biodegradable materials. Consider how frost hardy they will be if they are to stay outside during the colder months and make sure it has drainage holes. When you find your pot buy one of the nifty stands as well so that you can move it about easily.
Start at the bottom and build up
The first layer in the pot should be drainage. Traditionally this has been old pots (not plastic) broken into pieces or “crocks”, with any curved pieces covering (but not blocking) the drainage holes but you can also use old crockery that has been smashed into pieces (be careful!). Search on the internet and you will see many more suggestions including old tea bags and cloths! Whatever you use you will soon discover which works best for you.
Get the best compost
The buzz words are now “peat free”. All gardeners should now be aware of the damage to the environment harvesting peat is causing so we can all do our bit by choosing peat-free; after all, if Monty Don is telling us to do it shouldn’t we listen? All the major brands provide this option, and it is readily available in gardening centres; if yours doesn’t stock it ask why not! A general-purpose compost is perfect for containers; even better if has feed and moisture retaining granules in it!
This is the best bit! Whether you choose to have one striking hue, a tonal display or just a riot of colour, your container should brim over with plant joy. The best containers see you well through a season so consider using lots of different sizes, shapes, and heights to make sure it will look good as plants grow and die back. Ivy is always a good starting point as it trails beautifully and softens any edges. It also stays looking good whatever the season! If you are planting for summer interspace with trailing lobelia or geraniums. Choose a centrepiece; a large waving grass, a beautiful fuchsia, a rose… just make sure it has some height! Next plant any bulbs you are using… Ranunculus are lovely and come in a myriad of colours whilst alliums are stunning, and the bees love them! Finally, add your other plants. Here the sky’s the limit! Look for plants that say suitable for containers or do your own thing by planting a selection of herbs dotted around a rosemary bush.
Tend with Loving Care
Now you have your beautiful container make sure it stays looking good by watering it frequently remembering that it in hot weather it may need watering first thing in the morning and last thing at night. A feed every week can also help. Make sure you dead head any spent flowers as this encourages new ones to form.
And that’s it… a quick guide to container gardening from our talented gardening team at Richmond Villages. Why not start planning yours now by visiting a local garden centre, reading specialist books, or watching a gardening programme such as Gardener’s World? Happy gardening!
By Nicola Jackson, Senior Village Adviser, Richmond Villages Nantwich