How Plants Grow

Plant Environment

Soil Fundamentals

A Good Planter
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Plant Fundamentals
Plant Care
Garden Design
Vegetable Garden
Gardening Gourmet
Page 2

Gardening with Garden Planters.

Foliage for contrast: To lighten your arrangements and give them volume, grow foliage plants, including trailing varieties, around the edge of the pot. Try growing assorted colours:
  • Grey: Artemisia, senecio, santolina, helichrysum.
  • Variegated: English ivy (Hedera helix'Golden Ester') or Algerian ivy (H. canariensis 'Gloire de Marengo,).
  • Purple: Sage, Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea'.
  • Bronze: Carex comans 'Bronze Form', fennel .Purpureum'.
  • Yellow: Spear grass.
  • Black: Mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’).
  • Bluish or blue-green: Blue fescue.
Rough up the surface: Every couple of weeks, break up the crust of soil on the surface of the planters with a fork. This allows water to saturate the compost - your plants can die of thirst, even if watered, if the soil is impenetrable.
Feed your plants: If you have not included a slow-release fertiliser in your potting mix, make sure that six weeks after planting you start feeding with a high-potash feed. For a natural fertiliser, try seaweed extract as a foliar feed.
  • Every spring: remove the top 2.5cm of compost from planters that are permanently planted and replace it with fresh potting compost mixed with a little fertiliser.
  • Wrapping up for winter: In November, before the first frosts, arrange winter protection for less hardy plants that cannot be taken inside. To protect the stems, stick in four stakes around the plants, then cover this frame with horticultural fleece. Although it is expensive, fleece can be washed in a machine at forty degrees centigrade and re-used for several years. Bubble wrap can also be used, but fleece allows plants to breathe, reducing the risk of rotting. To maintain a healthy atmosphere, half, open the wrapping on fine, sunny days.
  • In April, remove the protection, watching the temperature at night. Keep more tender plants wrapped until mid-May.
  • Bubble wrap, hessian or straw are ideal for wrapping up planters, and protect the roots as well as the pots themselves. Tie the insulation snugly around your pots but do not block drainage holes.
  • You can bury planters up to their rims to provide protection from the frost during the winter months. Dig them up again once all danger of frost has passed.
  • Top tips for watering: Plants in containers are more dependent on you for water than those growing in the ground. Remember that hot or windy weather will dry out planters quickly, so keep a watchful eye on them in these conditions and be prepared to water them several times a day if needed. Careful preparation of planters will help to conserve water.
  • Let in the rain: Check that there is nothing sheltering your planters and window boxes from rainfall, and that the rain can penetrate the soil and will not simply run off the foliage.
  • Mulch to prevent dehydration: Protect large plants in planters from drying out by adding a layer of pebbles or glass beads on top of the compost.
  • Use ground cover: Grow ground-cover plants as an indicator of soil conditions at the surface of the pot. When they look limp you know that the top few centimetres have dried out, so the planter needs watering.
  • Watch for soil shrinkage: If soil shrinks so that it starts to come away from the sides of the planter, immediately put the pot into water. Allow the plants to drink for up to an hour.
  • Soak new planters: Before you plant them, soak new terracotta planters in a bucket of water until bubbles stop rising to the surface. This will stop the pot drawing water from the soil, away from your plants.
  • May clearance: In late spring, empty planters and window boxes onto a large plastic sheet and wash them thoroughly with dilute bleach. Replace the drainage gravel or chippings, and mix some fertiliser and compost into the soil. Refill the containers with annuals and bulbs ready for the summer.
Soil mixes for your Planters.

  For outdoor planters, never use a peat-based mixture because it dries out very quickly and is difficult to rewet. You cannot rely on rain water because there is rarely enough. Instead use a soil based mixture.
Making soil based mixture:
      Mix 7 parts loam, 3 parts spagnum peat & 2 parts coarse grit. To each 9 litre bucket add 30g of garden lime & 150g blood, fish and bone meal. You can replace the peat with well rotted compost or manure.
Making acid mixture:
      If you are including acid- loving plants in a planter make up the mixture as above but use an acid soil & omit the lime. If you cannot buy acid soil, use a mixture of two thirds peat and one third sharp sand & add fertilizer as above.

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