A pot or two

Keith Mundy
With the ever-increasing use of our outdoor space, pots as a growing solution are becoming far more popular. So here are some hints on how to successfully manage this form of gardening.
First decide what you actually want the pots and the plants to achieve. Are they to be used for growing vegetables, annual colour, perennials or shrubs? Or perhaps a screening plant to hide a shed or some unsightly part of the landscape?
The pot size is absolutely the most crucial decision, as a pot too small for the plant will cause it to dry out quickly, blow over in the wind or not contain sufficient nutrient to keep the plant healthy.
Generally, glazed pots are the best as there are many colours that suit the colour scheme of your home and these pots have a better moisture holding capability. Terracotta pots are very stylish but tend to dry, out so, if you use them, seal the inside of the pot with a terracotta sealant.
If you want to gradually enlarge to the next pot size as the plant grows, use a straight sided or V-shaped pot so the plant can be easily removed. A plant in a belly-shaped pot is nigh on impossible to repot without causing serious disturbance to the root system.
When selecting the plant to be potted, consider the eventual size of the plant. Remember that the larger the plant grows, the larger the pot should be. A plant that is to be used for screening should be in a pot that will also act as an anchor in a windy site. Too small a pot will just blow over and in most cases break.
If you are growing annuals, herbs or vegetables, a shallow pot will suffice as they are all generally shallow rooting and do not need a great depth of soil.
Use a premium potting mix with some slow release fertiliser and include some water storage crystals. There are many types of mixes out there and I can guarantee that the cheaper the mix, the lesser the quality.
Cheaper mixes are basically just pine bark and if you are growing vegetables and annual flowers you will need to fertilise and water more often as these mixes do not have any moisture- or nutrient-holding capabilities. The cheaper mixes will be of no benefit to the plants after a season or two.
Watering and fertilising is of an absolute importance. Vegetable and annual flowers will need watering several times a week and fertilising every ten days or so with a liquid fertiliser like a fish-or seaweed-based fertiliser. Shrubs and longer living plants also need watering and fertilising on a regular basis although, with the fertilising, add a specific slow-release fertiliser for the particular group of plants you have used. Do this three or four times a year, and add liquid food on a monthly basis. During the cooler months you can cut back as the plants are not growing.
Just a few other things to remember: check from time to time that the drainage holes haven’t become blocked by roots, rotate the pots to get an even, all-over growth, and prune when necessary.