One question that I’m often asked is what I am looking forward to doing when I retire. My stock answer is that I want to spend more time in my garden. Most people take this to mean that I am an avid gardener and will be spending all my waking hours digging and weeding, pruning roses and growing vegetables. My idea of spending time in the garden would be on a sun lounger with a good book and a glass of Prosecco! Don’t get me wrong. I love the garden to look tidy; I wouldn’t be able to relax if it didn’t, but there is a limit to the effort I want to put it. My dear husband usually cuts the grass and does any heavy garden maintenance, leaving me the gentle task of planting the pots, hanging baskets and window boxes. Over the years, with a lot of trial and error and some helpful hints from my very good friend Gill (@Gill Grocott) I think I have finally got it right so I would like to share some tips and advice.
I have given this article the title Pots and Kettles because almost anything can be used as a container for plants. It adds interest to your garden to search out weird and wonderful receptacles to plant up. From bathtubs to old boots, toilets and teapots, just about anything goes as long as you can make drainage holes in the bottom. Just don’t use anything that can rust as I have learnt that rusty water will kill plants almost instantly!
Once you have chosen your container you can begin to decide what plants to use. This is very much a personal choice but on the whole it is better to have one type of plant per pot and then group pots together. If you really want to mix and match, look for plants that like the same conditions. I like to plant a shrub in a big pot and add bedding plants around the edge for some colour. Avoid planting a thug with other plants that can’t compete. Mint, for example, should always have its own pot.
The first step is to fill the bottom of the pot with a layer of pebbles, gravel or broken pottery. This allow excess water to escape and prevent the soil becoming waterlogged which can in turn rot the roots of your plants. Broken up polystyrene packaging does the same job but with less weight – particularly useful for pots to want to move around.
It is worth using a good quality potting compost as this provides more nutrients for the young plants. I used to dig up some garden soil for my containers but found that the plants were more likely to get diseases. Most gardeners advise you to leave space for the plants to grow. I must admit that I tend to overfill my containers because I like them to look crowded. It also allows for the odd plant that may die.
Plants in containers need a little more care than those in the ground as you can’t rely on rainfall alone for water. Twice daily watering is sometimes necessary in hot weather and it is better to do this when they are not in direct sunlight. You can prolong the flowering season of many plants by removing the dead flowers before they produce seeds. This encourages the plant to produce more flowers to complete the cycle. I was never a great believer in plant food. I thought that compost, water and sunlight should be enough for any plant but I have to say that I was wrong. Of course they will grow but plant food makes a huge difference. The slow release fertilisers are generally better than liquid feed.
I always think you can grow anything in a pot as long as you feed it, water it correctly and give it the right amount of light. So my advice would be, have fun, experiment and take lots of cuttings which you can stick round the edge and see what happens!
Phew. After all that I think my sun lounger is calling me and the Prosecco should be nicely chilled by now. Happy days.