Going to Pot

Article excerpt

How to maintain a container garden

Flowers in bloom appeal to most everyone; however, the many physical tasks involved in maintaining flower beds can be enough to deter some from the pleasures of gardening. Container gardening, though, whether it is on a large or small scale, provides a colourful, portable accent for any part of your outdoor space.

A passion for containerized floral displays has its roots in ancient history but perhaps the most famous example in relatively recent times would be the exotic container displays of the Lower Orangery Exotics Garden at Hampton Court Palace in the late 17th century. William III and Mary II set the gardening world abuzz with their extensive use of elaborately designed containers showcasing all types of rare plant material sourced by plant collectors from around the world. Hampton Garden is undergoing a restoration including the recreation of the original containers.

Today, a plentiful supply of unusual, fascinating plants is readily available to gardeners at the closest garden centre. Containers, too, are available in a dizzying range of materials and sizes. While the traditional terra cotta container remains popular, lightweight materials such as fibreglass allow for the easy use and storage of oversized containers. Heavier containers, though, can easily be moved throughout the garden with the use of a two-wheel dolly.

Extending the beauty of your container displays into the hot, dry summer months of July and August has a great deal to do with the planting medium in which they have been planted. Good water retention and drainage is essential and this is most easily achieved through the use of specially formulated potting mixes.

David Hanson and Evelyn Yauk, co-owners of Sage Garden Herbs, stress the ideal potting mix will have three main qualities: good structure to anchor the plant, excellent aeration plus moisture-holding qualities for good water retention.

"A 50 per cent blend of cocoa fibre in the mix helps to keep the soil evenly moist."

Good water-holding capacity is critical for containers and makes for less stress if you happen to be going away."

Vic Lesser from Red River Soils recommends the use of a potting medium that includes an ingredient called Zeolite, which attracts and holds nutrients, keeping it in the medium longer rather than leaching out of the container. "Zeolite is totally organic. It holds between three and four times its weight in moisture, acting like a sponge. As the plant dries out, Zeolite has the capacity to release water and nutrients back into the soil."

Lesser also recommends the addition of earthworm castings to the soil surface of potting medium. "The castings contain micro-nutrients and enough of a living bacteria count to stimulate the breakdown of organic fertilizers that have been added to the potting medium." Worm castings have the added benefit of a slow release of nutrients with each watering.

While regular deadheading of spent blooms helps to ensure repeat flowering, fertilizing keeps them at their floriferous best. In previous years synthetic fertilizers were the fertilizer of choice, but environmentally friendly organic fertilizers such as Gaia Green produce equally good results by stimulating biological activity in the potting medium. Lush, vigorous growth is not the only advantage of fertilizing: plants will also have an increased ability to resist disease and pest infestation, reducing the need for chemical pesticides. …