Tips on Container Gardening

This year, we’re carrying woodland moss basket liners, as well as Supamoss, a lining material that’s made from recycled waste cotton fibres, with a water-retentive polythene backing. It looks like moss, but keeps its colour throughout the season.

Choose a porous planting mix for your containers, to help provide adequate drainage and avoid root rot. Soil from your garden is usually too heavy and often carries insects, diseases and weed seeds – not ideal if you intend to bring your planters inside in the event of late frosts or for the winter. Soil level should be about ½” below the container rim – this way the water won’t run off.

Rather than add stones or shards for drainage, use broken-up Styrofoam flats or scrunched-up pots and cell packs. This makes your containers lighter and easier to move around or hang up. If your containers are small, and there’s no room for drainage materials, line the pots with a coffee filter, old panty hose, or landscape fabric to keep the potting mix in the container.

Plant up your pots as soon after your plant purchases as possible – if you are delayed, keep your plants watered and in the shade. Evenings and cloudy days are best for planting. Leave your newly planted containers in the shade for a few days before moving them to their final home, to help the plants get established.

Consider a specialized basket/container fertilizer — slow-release pellets that feed your plants throughout the season. Although it’s a little more expensive than regular all-purpose plant food, you need to feed your containers only when you plant them – no more remembering when you last fed your plants.

Planter and plant selection is immense – think of how much shade or sun the containers will get. Look for possible obstructions to the sun – not just the direction your baskets will be facing. Terra cotta planters dry out quicker than plastic containers – remember the wind as well as the sun when thinking about future watering. Clustering your plants helps to shade their roots – they’ll need less water than those planted further apart. Don’t worry about normal spacing requirements – except for growing vegetables, especially tomatoes.

Use tall plants as a backdrop, and mounding plants in the centre. In the front and around the edges, why not use ivies and other trailing or cascading plants? Add a trellis and a vine for some height. Short, stout planters are better than taller ones for windy locales, as are plants that aren’t tall and stiff. Plants with smaller leaves offer less wind resistance.

You can use grasses, evergreens or other perennials, but remember that in our climate your containers should be at least 3’x3’x3’ for winter survival – otherwise, heel your plants (or the pots) into the ground.

Later in the summer, cut back leggy annuals by one third – it won’t take long for them to fill out and form buds again. Deadhead regularly throughout the season to get more blooms.