Six secrets to successful container gardening

With the launch of the new Oxford Hanley range of pots on our website, we thought we’d share our 6 secrets to successful container gardening with you.

Pots and planters are often a great choice for those who perhaps haven’t got a large garden, or for gardeners who like to keep their plants closer to home where they can enjoy them, on a patio or decking area.

Gardening in pots has lots of benefits – no real digging is required; large containers mean less bending and kneeling and they add mobility to your floral displays – but there are a few pitfalls that can make things tricky.

Here are 6 secrets to getting the best out of your pots and planters.

  1. hands in soilThe first secret to container gardening is to make sure that you use fresh soil or compost in your pots and planters. If you’re planting up one of last year’s containers, just have a think about how long you’ve been growing plants in it because after a year or so of use, the soil or compost will be pretty much depleted of the nutrients that are essential to keeping your plants strong and healthy. Try our incredicompost® which has been independently trialled and verified as the best overall compost for sowing seeds and raising young plants. We also won silver in the 2016 Grow Your Own magazine’s annual Great British Growing Awards in the category Most Effective Composting Product for our incredicompost® – so you can be sure it’s the best start for your plants!

 

  1. The next secret is to make sure that the pots and containers that you’re using are clean inside. What might look like harmless traces of last year’s soil could harbour harmful diseases and pests that could adversely affect your plants’ health. You can wash out your pots with a mild dishwashing detergent – but not one containing bleach or any herbal essences – and then let them air dry. Have a look at our wide range of pots and planters – from the contemporary style of the Oxford Hanley range to the more traditional Wenlock planters or the elegant Bee Hive Planters – we’ve got a huge choice to offer you.

 

  1. Oxford-Hanley Aldeburgh pairBe sure to choose a pot or planter that will be big enough for your plants once they reach maturity. All too often we pot up plants in containers that will be outgrown in no time at all which creates problems for the roots and the plant becomes pot-bound. You’ll notice that we offer a number of pot ranges which include pots of various sizes – Oxford Hanley and our Antique planters both have a number of sizes to choose from, so you should be able to find the right size container for each plant.

 

  1. Talking of plants getting pot bound brings us on to our 4th point: if you’re potting on a plant or relocating a plant that you’d prefer in another site, it may well be verging on pot bound if it isn’t already. If this is the case, be sure to ‘prune’ back the root system before planting it up again. To prune the roots, think of them like the branches of any plant and simply thin them out. This will give your plant the best chance when it comes to settling into its new location. Use our handy snips to gently trim the roots before repotting.

 

  1. garden snipsOnce you’ve planted your chosen plants into pots, planters or containers, you’ll need to fill them up with loose soil or compost. People often think that once the plant is in the container that the soil should then be really pressed down firmly around the plant stem. In fact, it’s better to leave the soil or compost quite ‘loose’ and then to water gently, but thoroughly, just until the water drains from the bottom of the container. This helps the soil to bed in nicely around the roots whilst leaving the top soil loose enough to not constrict the growth of your plant.

 

  1. begonia in self watering potAllowing for good air circulation and drainage is key to success in container gardening. We recommend perching your pots and other containers on bricks or blocks and not to use trays or saucers unless you are going to be away for a few days. Unless you’re going away for the weekend, it’s best not to leave your plants standing in water – plants will ‘suffocate’ if they stand in water for too long. The ideal solution is to invest in some self-watering patio pots.

self watering pot diagram

 

These are just perfect for gardeners who sometimes like to get away for the weekend, but who want to keep their plants watered. They’re also a great idea for lazy or forgetful gardeners who don’t always water their plants as much as they should! They have a nifty wick which delivers just the water that the plant needs from the built-in reservoir.

 

 

 

So there you have it! Some top tips for container gardening success this summer. We’d love to see how you get on, so why not send us a photo of your favourite colourful container? Send your pictures to greatpics@thompson-morgan.com or post them on our Facebook page – use #shareyourgarden. We look forward to seeing your gardening endeavours!  Don’t forget! If we use one of your photos in our catalogue or on our website, you’ll be rewarded with Thompson & Morgan vouchers!

 

Look here for more information and advice on growing plants in containers.

 

Sonia Mermagen
Sonia has recently returned to Thompson & Morgan in the role of marketing copy writer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia is a big fan of plants marked ‘easy to grow’, ‘drought tolerant’ and ‘no pruning necessary’. In her own garden, Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach and believes that this encourages bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)

Cleaning up garden tools for the winter

Cleaning Garden tools for winter

    garden tools needing a vlean

    A good garden tool isn’t just for Christmas ….

    A cliché, but true. Proper tool maintainance, from the humble trowel to the mighty cultivator, will extend their useful life considerably. Regular cleaning, oiling, sharpening and generally looking after them will also make your life a lot easier. Some tools may only need an annual service whilst others will benefit from being cleaned after each use.

    I have to admit that I’m no angel all the time when it comes to this, and I’m sure there have been times when we’ve all left a pair of secateurs outside or put dirty spades and forks away in the shed. When was the last time you sharpened your shears properly and gave your Dutch hoe some TLC?

    As it’s now that time of year when a lot of the garden has been put to bed and tools are away for the winter. The lawn mower has gone into hibernation in the shed or garage like a bear settling down for the winter and even the hedge cutter can find a roost and be hung up until it’s needed again.
    But before all that happens, I need to be kind to my tools so that I can use them when I need to come spring!

    First of all, anything with a blade I will give a good clean. I’ll use a strong detergent, water as hot as I can bear a scrubbing brush and one of those sponges with a scourer on one side. It’s so easy to let a build up of rubbish, gunk, sap etc accumulate, especially on secateurs and loppers; scrape off the worst of it using another blade (I use the knife on my trusty Multitool) and then give them a good scrub. Once they’re all clean and dried, sharpen them using a file or whetstone if you have one, they’re cheap to buy anyway and well worth getting one. You’ll get a much keener edge on the blade, which will make pruning later on much easier and you’ll also get a cleaner cut, which will reduce the chances of disease getting in! One I’ve sharpened the blade, checked it and put a plaster on my thumb where I found out it was VERY sharp, I put a drop of oil on the hinge and any other parts that move and I also then spray the blades with WD40.

    digging spade, raking leaves, trowel and fork

    Next on my list are the hand tools; the trowels, spades, rakes and hoes etc. These are usually the ones that take the hardest beating each year, and so also end up looking the worst of all.
    A good scrape of the worst of the built up dirt followed by a wire brush to really give them a thorough clean and then the detergent and scourer again to finish them off. Once the metal parts have all dried I wipe them over with an oily rag or again a light spray with WD40

    I have heard a tip from a friend who has a bucket of sharp sand in his shed, which has been mixed with motor oil, when he comes in with used tools, he plunges them in and out of the bucket, the sand helps to clean the tools and the oil preserves against rust. I haven’t tried this I admit, it sounds like a good idea, but knowing me, I’d stub my toe on the bucket or kick it over!

    Although much rarer these days, some of my tools have wooden handles, these handle can dry out and potentially split, or become weak and break under strain. A clean, light sanding and then a liberal dose of teak oil keeps the wood in good condition and also helps to keep it more flexible too.

    I know a lot of people recommend and use linseed oil on their gardening tools, to preserve blades, prevent rust and on wooden handles etc. I am perhaps overly cautious though and don’t really want to have anything that could potentially burst into flames if I forget to do something like clear up properly. I’ll stick with WD40 and teak oil, thank you very much!

    I’m not a mechanic by any means but I do carry out a few simpler tasks on any garden machinery I own. For major things I always use a professional as it’s just not worth doing a “bodge” job on any piece of machinery that could go wrong and be expensive to replace!

    Cleaning is probably the most important part, especially on your lawn mower, the build up inside the deck of old grass, mud, leaves and goodness knows what else can lead to rust holes on a metal deck, or an inefficient grass collection, the blades catching in internal debris can be harmful too.

    cleaning lawn mower

    If you have a petrol mower, tip it back in the direction recommended by the manufacturer, if you don’t then trust me, the oil can go everywhere, and this can REALLY mess things up later on. I usually use an old paint scraper to get rid of the worst, then it’s back to brushes and hot soapy water to give it a thorough scrub. Whilst you’re waiting for it to dry off, take the blade off if you can (wearing gloves of course) and test the cutting edges. Sharpen using a file, balance it and put it back. If in doubt, take it somewhere that can sharpen mower blades and balance them properly. If a rotary mower blade isn’t balanced then the vibrations it will cause when in use will seriously harm the machine, not to mention it being absolutely awful to use too!

    Check the oil regularly of course, and clean out air filters, or replace them, this goes for all petrol machinery throughout the year. It’s a similar routine for tillers and any other large, driven machinery. As a matter of course, before I start any machine, I always check the spark plug lead is intact and that it’s firmly seated onto the plug itself, this is from past experience and prevents some head scratching as to why the machine won’t start!

    The internal workings of some of my electrical equipment I honestly leave well alone. I’m nowhere near qualified to take my hedge trimmer apart, so I don’t. I really good clean and brush down, Good old WD40 on all the moving parts and check all the wires and plugs for damage is about all I can do.
    Obviously make sure your storage area is clean and dry too, no point cleaning everything up & putting it away only to find the more rust has accumulated over the winter!

    These are definitely “chores” every year, but I’ve found that it’s well worth it, keep your favourite tools clean and tidy and you’ll have as much pride in them as you will your garden!

    Obviously more hints and tips are more than welcome from everyone!

    Graham Ward
    I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.

    Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.

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