Container gardening is fantastic. On its own, a terracotta pot is just a container and summer bedding is just some plants. However, selectively plant the summer bedding in the container, add a few sprinkles of green-fingered expertise and you have created a miniature garden-scape. You are effectively planting a garden in miniature. This is known to some people as container design planting. The constructive planting of containers allows people who may just have a balcony to enjoy a taste of horticulture; containerised planting also brings the garden within the reach of a disabled persons fork and trowel.
* Cleaning containers
To help you create thriving container plantings for the summer, please consider the following… If you intend replanting any containers you should get rid of all traces of compost from the previous year. Be scrupulous in your washing as particles of previous year’s compost can harbour pests, diseases and mould spores. To ensure a clean environment for growing, wash the heavier covering of old compost off with a hose. Follow this by plunging the containers into water containing a garden disinfectant such as ‘Jeyes fluid’. Scrub off any stubborn compost with a scrubbing brush, do this whilst in the disinfectant. Rinse the containers well under running water and leave them to dry. Use this method on window boxes as well, particularly if you have a build up of old compost and your planting tends to finish flowering far too early.
* Container drainage
Check your container for adequate drainage holes, If you have too few or no drainage holes at all then your plants may suffer from oxygen starvation due to excess water. To prevent drainage points becoming blocked with compost, I suggest placing a layer of broken terracotta or polystyrene bedding plant trays over the drainage holes. In fact broken polystyrene bedding plant trays can also be used to fill the main body of larger containers; this will reduce the amount of potting compost needed.
* Compost level
Fill your container with a quality peat or loam-based compost and firm lightly. Ensure this compost stops at least 1 inch below the lip of the container; this will be your watering space.
Hours before planting, plunge these plants in a bucket of water and thoroughly soak them. Watering like this will prevent shock upon replanting and will also help merge the plants existing compost to its new container compost. Position the plants on top of the container to get an impression of what the final planting could look like, it is better to alter positions at this stage rather than at the mucky post planting stage.
* Centre and surrounding planting
Aim to plant from the centre of the container outwards. Create a central or offset central hole big enough for the rootball of the central plant. Examples of good central plants would be a Cordyline or Phormium. Remove the pot (believe me, some people forget this) and place the plant into the hole firming the compost around it. Then, settle the rest of the plants in similar planting style around the edges. All the plants should end up at the same depth as they were in their original containers.
Ensure the containers compost stops at least 1 inch below the lip of the container; this is to allow a watering space. Level the surface of the compost with your hand and water thoroughly until water starts to flow from the containers base. Leave the container to sit for about an hour, if after that hour any of the compost has settled then you may top it up. Wooden and unglazed terracotta containers usually require much more water due to their porous and absorbent nature. I suggest you apply a mulch of mini-chip bark or gravel to the composts surface, as well as being decorative this will lessen the containers loss of water through evaporation.