Container Gardening - hanging baskets, window boxes and free-standing containers
Our Guide to Container Gardening.
The smallest of houses and apartments have room for strategically placed plants in containers or window boxes. These plants will be totally reliant on the gardener for food and water, so think about the time you have available before embarking on the purchase of numerous plants.
Hanging baskets which are totally exposed to the sun may need watering several times a day.
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There are a multitude of containers available. When purchasing containers take into consideration the plants that will be used and make sure they are of sufficient depth and width. A depth of 30cm (1ft) is the required minimum for pots and tubs. Window boxes can be slightly less.
Decent drainage is essential. Stand pots and containers on bricks or supports to allow water to drain freely. Do not use ordinary garden soil. Use John Innes potting compost No.3, or some other peat-based compost, containing slow release fertilizer.
There are a variety of hanging baskets available for purchase, from the traditional wire baskets to modern plastic and fibre types. Once planted the "hanging garden" trails over the edges and the basket and planting material are totally concealed.
The traditional lining for the basket is moss but nowadays purpose made liners can be bought. The function of the liner is to hold the soil whilst allowing it to drain freely.
Plants used for handing baskets are not hardy therefore need to be planted late in the year-from the end of May onwards-unless you have an indoor site which can be used initially until the weather is suitable outside.
Filling and Planting the basket:
The range of suitable plants is quite small as the plants need to be long-flowering, small enough for the basket and not require frequent dead-heading.
- Rest the basket on a stand, an old paint tin will do.
- Place the liner or moss in position.
- Add compost in layers, gently pulling plants through the wire as required. Cover the roots with the next layer of compost.
- Water thoroughly and leave to drain.
- Attach to a sturdy bracket or hook-this needs to bear the considerable weight of the basket when fully grown and the soil is damp.
Plant trailing lobelias through the moss at the sides. They can also be used around the edges.
Busy Lizzie, pendulous begonias and fuschias are popular for use in hanging baskets. It is all down to personal preference-plant using entirely one type-or mix them up.
Pelargoniums are popular for use in the centre, with ivy leaved pelargoniums trailing over the side.
Window boxes can be attached to brackets or rest on a sill if it is strong enough. It must be secured, especially if above a frequently used path.
The minimum depth is 23cm (9 inches), 5-8cm (2-3 inches) being used for drainage material, then a layer of soil, leaving a 2.5cm (1 inch) gap at the top for watering. Ideally the box should be at least 30cm (1ft) deep.
The longest lasting window boxes are constructed from oak, teak or cedar. Wooden boxes can be treated with preservative to reduce rotting but NEVER use creosote as this will kill your plants. Lining with plastic sheet can also prolong the life of the containers. A variety of plastic boxes are available. Planting is as for free-standing containers.
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There is an enormous range of containers available for use in your garden and patio, ranging from expensive stone-ware to old wheelbarrows. The depth should be at least 30cm (1 ft) as before.
When planting several small containers try to take into account the colour of the tubs and use related colours or muted shades. Brighter tubs can be used as a single feature.
For a long summer display, the same applies to window boxes; there are an unlimited range of perennials and hardy annuals available.
Plants which have the require qualities include:
- Begonia semporflorens
- Kochia trichophylla
- Salvia splendens
Foliage plants suitable for raising from seed include:
- Centaurea candidissima
- C. gymnocarpa
- Cineraria maritima
- Chrysanthemum ptarmiciflorum
- C. parthenium
Most of the plants listed are removed at the end of the season but the half-hardy perennials can be over-wintered in a greenhouse.
Bulbs and biennials can be used for a spring display and dwarf evergreen shrubs and conifers can provide winter interest.
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