Size | Compost | Watering
Every container needs effort but there are ways to reduce the effort. The greater the number of containers planted up, the more watering will be necessary during the summer. It is best to restrict the number of containers to the minimum necessary and concentrate on looking after those properly.
In any garden, there are a few key locations for containers. These are usually associated with entrances, paths, paved areas and corners of buildings. Pick out the important locations, by moving containers around if necessary, and plant up that number only.
Large containers hold a greater volume of compost, and a larger reserve of water and plant nutrients. Deep containers dry out more slowly because they have less compost surface area relative to their volume.
Clay and concrete containers look good but they dry out quickly. They can be lined with polythene sheeting to keep the moisture in. Metal urns look well, especially lead and cast iron, and they dry out more slowly. Plastic holds in the moisture but does not look great.
Compost containing half peat, half good garden soil, unsterilized, with some fertiliser added is a suitable mixture. It costs less than using peat-based compost alone. If it dries out, it is easier to wet than peat-based compost, and there is a small reserve of nutrients in the soil if feeding is neglected. It also reduces vine weevil damage. Do not use garden soil on its own; it tends to become compacted with regular watering and the plant roots are starved of air.
Various ways to reduce the frequency of watering have already been mentioned, but another important tactic is to accustom the plants, from the beginning, to getting by on less water. If container plants are watered each day, they will grow luxuriantly but wilt very quickly if watering is missed for any reason.
If they are watered every four or five days, they will become less leafy, probably carry more flowers, and they will certainly be able to stand up to water shortage much better. A low-cost automatic watering system can be fitted to reduce the effort of watering pots and other containers and are ideal for handing baskets. Use slow-release fertilizer granules.
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