A Pot or Two

Keith Mundy 

With the ever increasing use of our outdoor spaces, the use of pots as a growing solution is becoming far greater than in previous times. The opportunity is right to offer some hints on how to successfully manage this form of gardening.  Probably most important is to decide what you actually want the pots and the plants to achieve.  Are they to be used for growing vegetables and some annual colour? Maybe a perennial and a shrub? Or, in some cases, a screening plant to hide a shed or some unsightly part of the landscape?  The answers to these questions will help you decide on the type and size of the pot, the actual plant to be used and how then to succeed with the selection of the plant and its ongoing maintenance.  The pot’s size is the most crucial selection as a pot too small for the plant will cause it to dry out quickly, blow over in the wind and not contain sufficient nutrient to keep the plant healthy.

There are many types of pots from plastic, terracotta and glazed; and for some short term vegetable growing, the use of a polystyrene vegetable box can be used. Generally glazed pots are the best. There are many colours that suit the colour scheme of the home and these pots have a better moisture holding capability than other styles. Terracotta pots are very stylish but have a tendency to dry out so if this style is to be used, seal the inside of the pot with a terracotta sealant. Plastic and polystyrene pots are best used where the pot is to be used for the short term as they tend to break down under strong sunlight. A useful hint when selecting a pot is to use a straight sided or V shaped pot so the plant can be easily  removed. A pot which is belly shaped is nigh on impossible to repot without causing serious disturbance to the root system. After the decision has been made about the pot the next decision is to what to plant. Consider the eventual size of the plant remembering 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 simply just blow over and in most cases smash. If you are growing annuals, herbs and vegetables, a shallow pot will suffice as they are all generally shallow rooting and do not need a great depth of soil.

Next comes to what type of potting mix to use. In most cases a premium potting mix with some slow release fertiliser included and some water storage crystals is the best. There a many types of mixes out there and I can guarantee that the cheaper the mix is to purchase, the lesser quality it is. For plants that are going to be in the pots for an extended time, I suggest a premium potting mix. If you are growing vegetables and annual flowers you can use a cheaper mix but you will need to fertilise and water more often as these mixes do not have any moisture or nutrient holding capabilities. These cheaper mixes will be of no benefit to the plants after a season or two. Do a lift test to ascertain whether you are getting a quality mix: the lighter the weight the poorer the quality. The lighter weighted bags usually consist of tan bark and are either 20 or 25 litres against the 30 litres of a premium bag.

Watering and fertilising is of absolute importance. Vegetables 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 some fertilising can include a specific slow release fertiliser for the particular group of plants you have used. Do this three or four times a year as well as the liquid food on a monthly basis. During the cooler months this can be cut back as the plants are not actively growing. Just a few other things to remember: from time to time check that the drainage holes haven’t become blocked by roots; rotate the pots to get an even all over growth and prune when necessary. Good luck with your efforts. From us at the Spires Nursery we wish you all a safe and loving Christmas and holiday season.