Plants grown in containers rely on you to provide them with a clean garden pot, drainage to prevent waterlogging, and a compost to suit their needs.
Preparing Garden Pots
Before planting, clean all pots, including new ones, with hot, soapy water to reduce the risk of transmitting diseases. To ensure that the compost does not become waterlogged, check that there are drainage holes in the base; if not, use a drill to make some.
Terra-cotta pots benefit from a plastic lining to help prevent this porous clay drawing moisture from the compost. Metal pots can overheat in the sun, so line them with bubble wrap to keep the plant roots cool. Pierce the linings to provide good drainage.
Many tall and sprawling plants benefit from additional support to keep them healthy and cropping well. Fasten tall plants, such as cordon tomatoes and peppers, to sturdy stakes or trellis with soft twine. Peas have tendrils that allow them to climb and grasp twiggy sticks and netting, while climbing beans will twist their stems around stakes made into a pentagon shape, but they need to be tied on first. Fruit trees and bushes trained as cordons or fans should be attached to taught wires or trellis as they grow.
There are many composts on the market and choosing the right one can
seem complicated, but the decision is largely between soil-based and
multipurpose types. Some multipurpose composts contain peat, but
environmental concerns about peat extraction has led to substitutes,
such as coconut fiber. Soil-based composts provide a steady supply of
nutrients, and retain water and drain well. They provide good conditions
for long-term growth and are particularly suitable for fruit bushes and
Multipurpose compost, with or without peat, is easy to use and
lightweight; it’s the best choice for hanging baskets but is not
suitable for pots in exposed sites where they may blow over. It also
dries out quite quickly and doesn’t hold many nutrients, increasing the
need to water and feed plants.However, multipurpose works well for
short-term crops, including many vegetables.
Seed compost is formulated for sowing and has a fine texture, which
encourages high germination rates. It is also moisture retentive and low
in nutrients, which is best for seeds.
Spreading a thick layer of material, known as a “mulch,” on the compost
surface looks attractive, helps to retain moisture, and prevents weed
seeds from germinating. Mulches also help to prevent surface compost
being washed away with repeated watering. Organic mulches, such as leaf
mold, add nutrients and organic matter to the compost. Other options
include bark chips, gravel, and slate, which provide a decorative touch.
For maximum effect, apply a layer of mulch at least 1in (2.5cm) deep
after watering the compost.