How to prepare your containers for your summer garden

PUBLISHED: 17:39 04 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:19 20 February 2013

Martin waters a tropical pot and checks it is growing healthily

Martin waters a tropical pot and checks it is growing healthily

Make sure you have lots of colour in your garden this summer by planting up your containers now. Martin Fish shows you how

Martin Fish is Show Director for the North of England Horticultural Society organisers of the Harrogate Flower Shows. He is a qualified horticulturist and writes for several gardening publications and broadcasts for the BBC.

You cant rely on the British weather to add much-needed brightness to your garden this summer, but you can create your own colour and interest with containers.

May is the perfect time to plan and plant container displays for the coming season. If youre growing half hardy or tender plants, remember they will need protection until the danger of frost has passed, which in parts of Yorkshire can be as late as the end or May or even early June. You can give your plants a healthy head start though by planting a few weeks earlier in a conservatory or greenhouse.

Hanging baskets are a firm favourite and will give masses of colour all through the summer. There is such a wide range of plants available you can have just about any colour scheme you want mixed or single colours.

Planting a basket is very simple and it allows you to choose exactly what plants you want to match the style of your garden.

But dont feel you have to go for a basket every time there are now myriad options for garden containers.

If your soil is well drained, then why not have a go at growing water-loving plants in a half-barrel to create a mini bog garden. If the barrel has a drainage hole it will need bunging up before adding a 10cm layer of rubble and gravel. Because these plants are going to live in the barrel for several years they need a suitable compost a mixture or 50:50 multipurpose and John Innes is ideal.

Plants that work well include hosta, ligularia, astilbe, shuttlecock fern and the hardy lobelias, all of which thrive in very moist conditions. Most of these plants die down in the winter months, but come spring they will burst into life again.

A manger is also a good way of making a plain wall more interesting and, for all year interest, can be planted with a selection of evergreens, grasses and ferns. This is an ideal feature to use on a north facing wall and, by using plants with different coloured and textured leaves, will look good for several years.

Remember that plants grown in containers need to be watered and fed on a regular basis. Small pots and hanging baskets dry out very quickly on a warm summer day, so you need to think about watering them frequently.
There are several easy to install automatic watering systems on the market that simply connect to an outside tap and feed containers via small-bore pipes.

Alternatively, you can water the old-fashioned way with a watering can; this is a great idea because it means you can check the plants to make sure theyre healthy and growing as you go.

Hanging baskets and small containers may need watering daily in warm weather, whereas large containers of shrubs and perennials are normally fine when watered two or three times a week.

Feeding is also very important to get the best out of your plants. Ensure they have a ready supply of food through the season by using a mix of slow release fertiliser and compost with an additional weekly liquid feed.

Totally tropical

Why not bring a taste of the tropics to your Yorkshire garden with lush plants grown for their bold colour and impact?

Choose a large pot and add some large chunks of polystyrene to save on compost.

Plant your selection of tropical looking plants such as purple cordyline, canna, New Guinea impatiens, the good old spider plant and vrissia, which is also known as the flaming torch because of its bright red flower spike. Banana plants and palms also look great in this type of planting.

Stand the container in a sunny spot from June to September, keep it well watered and fed and it will thrive. When the weather cools in autumn, bring your tropical pot into the house or conservatory where it will carry on growing.

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