Container Gardening

Container gardening isn't just for gardeners short of space; it's also a great way to brighten up every corner of your garden. You can use containers on patios, decking, window sills and balconies, in fact anywhere there's space. Containers also provide a good place to start a plant or vegetable's life before they're big enough to move into the ground.

What can I grow in containers?

You can grow almost anything in a container. Typically the smaller the plant, the more care it will need. Large plants in large containers such as Geraniums tend to be quite good at looking after themselves as long as you keep up the essential watering and deadheading.

Where can I put my containers?

Containers are suitable for any garden or home and make a great addition to patios, doorsteps, decking, balconies, window sills or flowerbeds. Try to seek a sunny spot to ensure your plants make the most of their growth potential.

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Your choice of container will depend on what you plan to grow and the space you have available. Avoid deep rooted plants in smaller pots or window boxes; however herbs and succulents will thrive in this environment. Lillies and Roses are great flowers for shallow tubs whilst salads and herbs are perfect if you're growing for the kitchen. Follow individual seed packet instructions for accurate planting depths.

Container planting isn't just limited to traditional pots – try some of our suggestions below;

  • Hanging Baskets

    Perfect where space is limited, or if you'd like to bring some colour to a porch or patio, hanging baskets are easy to plant and maintain and with care will bloom throughout the summer. Traditional style baskets look beautiful planted with trailing plants, or try a contemporary style planted with succulents or herbs.

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  • Outdoor Planters

    Wooden planters are a timeless addition to any garden. Available in a wide variety of styles they are suitable for a most plants, from summer bedding to vegetables. They're ideal for salad crops and annual herbs. Don't forget to treat regularly with a wood preservative or suitable paint to keep in tip-top condition.

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  • Outdoor Pots

    Outdoor pots come in a wide range of styles from traditional terracotta to sleek and modern. They are also available in many different materials to suit different gardens – plastic pots look stylish and are lightweight and easy to move, terracotta brings a touch of Mediterranean charm but may need to be protected from frost, and glazed ceramic pots add a splash of colour.

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  • Raised Beds

    Raised beds are a fantastic option for larger gardens – adding a visual statement, making plants easy to reach and soil quality easy to improve. They're ideal for vegetable gardening, with good planting depth.

    You can even create your own planters - old welly boots, a teapot or even stone sinks. Let your imagination run wild!

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  • Drainage

    Whatever you decide to use for planting, make sure there is sufficient drainage for your crops. If you're creating your own planters be sure to drill some holes underneath. Add more holes if the plant is struggling to fully drain, and use broken crockery, pebbles or gravel at the bottom of the container to allow water to escape.

Use a good quality compost and soil mixture when sowing seeds for your container and when potting up your plants. Don't forget that containers may also need feeding as the plants will use up the nutrients in the existing soil. A universal plant food will suit most plants, but consider using a specialist feed if you are growing vegetables or fruit.

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  • Herbs

    Most herbs are perfectly sized for container planting, look good and easy to grow. They flourish out of doors from April to September, however most will find winter frosts too cold, so move indoors to a kitchen windowsill or greenhouse. Mint, chives, rosemary and thyme are resilient enough to survive most British winters out of doors, just keep an eye out for particularly harsh frosts and protect with a cloche or fleece.

  • Succulents

    Succulents have a thicker fleshy texture; they retain water very well and so need minimal watering. They love being out in the sun during summer but will also happily sit indoors through the winter. Succulents like to be secure in their container, so choose one with only a little room to grow.

  • Bedding plants

    Containers are ideal for bedding plants, and make it much easier to protect your plants from dehydration and pests such as slugs and snails.

  • Fruit and vegetables

    Why not give container-grown fruit and vegetables a try? Turn homemade dinners into home grown. Pick your own delicious strawberries to have with cream or some tomatoes for a mouth-watering salad. Many varieties can be grown in containers – try salad leaves, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and chilli peppers or strawberries. Alternatively, onions and potatoes will thrive in raised beds.

Maintenance

Feed plants according to the time of year - follow individual plant instructions and feed packaging for the best advice as the needs of different species will change through the year.

Avoid over watering your plants - containers should stay moist but not soggy. Try to keep the moisture level consistent rather than allowing intermittent wet/dry spells. During the summer months check your pots at least one a day, twice on especially hot days. Water once until the water fills the pot, let it drain through and then water again half as much to ensure the roots get a good drink. Consider installing an irrigation system to look after your plants if you are away from home – or simply to keep your garden low maintenance.

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  • Re-potting

    If you're using containers as a stepping stone to bigger things then there will come a time to migrate to a larger pot or a bed. Re-pot in early spring when your plant starts to show the first signs of life for the year, remove a third of the top compost surrounding your plant and add some fresh soil. Loosen the roots to allow the plant to get comfortable in their new home.

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  • Surviving the winter

    Some containers may suffer from water logging and freezing temperatures during the winter. If the plants are not frost-tolerant move indoors or to a greenhouse for additional protection. If conditions are especially cold, consider using horticultural fleece or a cloche over plants left outside.