Growing plants in containers is an ancient art. Babylon featured hanging gardens cascading from massive clay containers. Terracotta planters and giant urn water gardens were an impressive feature of early Egyptian gardening and their distinctive style was carried on with invading armies to later influence gardening in Greece and Rome.
The Chinese and Japanese have been creating exquisite miniature bonsai for thousands of years. While the American Indian tribes were growing early season seedlings in clay pots and hollow gourd shells from well before recorded history.
There are several reasons for all this interest in container gardening from ancient history until the present day. First of all, almost anything growing in the wide world of Nature will grow in a pot with proper care. This greatly extends the gardener’s range of plant material that can be grown.
Container plants can be easily moved or even stacked to create special decorative displays. By shifting the container it is possible to extend or alter the growing season creating special microclimates favourable to plant health and productivity.
Container gardening allows plantings to be grown in courtyards, paved areas, indoors or in other spots where in-ground planting would be impossible, thus greatly increasing the productivity and/or utilization of available land especially in a limited space.
And container planting can be highly attractive, creating an art form within itself like the well known Bonsai or terracotta gardens of the Mediterranean. To grow a plant successfully in a container it must have sufficient light, air circulation, water, adequate drainage, suitable soil and food.
Most plants need high levels of light, preferably bright indirect or direct sunlight for at least a few hours each day. Avoid growing plants in dark corners indoors. As a general rule it is better to give the plant more light than it needs rather than less.
Good ventilation helps the plant breath and reduces pests and disease. But avoid cold drafts or drying winds that can chill and quickly damage a plant in a short time. Porous wooden troughs and unglazed terracotta are especially vulnerable to drying out because air passes through the container walls very quickly in windy weather.
For best protection such containers can be internally lined with a sheet of plastic plus a drainage hole or plant in plastic containers, glass, metal or glazed ceramic in windy sites.
Most plants need adequate and consistent watering and drainage, preferring constant conditions rather than extremes of wet and dry. It is usually better to water a plant a little every second day than to drown it once a week.
With the exception of aquatic plants grown in water-tight pots, this water should drain away within half an hour. Water that cannot drain thoroughly from the container will settle around the plant’s roots leading to root rot, bud and fruit drop, and leaf spotting.
The soil should be light and fluffy for unrestricted root growth, good drainage and air flow, and must be free from disease, earthworms and pests. Avoid garden soil for container plants. For most plantings use a complete all purpose mix suitable tor both indoor and outdoor container plants and sterilised against pests and disease.
For drought-loving plants like cacti and succulents, fine sand or bark, pumice or river gravel can be added to this mix to achieve greater drainage. There are also mixes especially formulated for unique situations like Yates Hanging Basket Mix, Patio and Tub, Seedraising, and Orchid Mix.
To these mixes the gardener can add additional fertilisers such as Blood and Bone, Compost or a controlled release fertiliser like Plantacote, Multicote, or Shrub and Tree which will constantly feed the plant for up to 3 year.
For truly professional results, also booster feed container plants with a liquid plant food like Thrive and Bio-Gold. First water the plant then apply as a liquid feed to the soil or as a foliar spray.
Feed just before a flush of new growth, bud development, flowering and as fruit begins to ripen and mature.
It’s easy to create miniature gardens of annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, vines on small trellises, fruiting or ornamental trees and shrubs perhaps with a compatible groundcover, cascading baskets of colour, or water gardens.
So be creative! in the exciting world of container gardening there’s something special to suit every taste and situation.
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