Promise in a Pot Series – Container gardening: The secrets to success

No garden? No problem! Do you dream of a beautiful, blooming garden, but you don't have space? Don't despair. It's time to start thinking outside the garden. Think balcony. Think patio. Think containers. With a bit of creativity, you can turn a small space into an eye-catching display of greenery - and you don't even need a lawn or flower bed to get started. All you need is a couple of pots and a place to put them.

Space should not be a limitation to anyone wanting to release their inner Keith Kirsten. Many flowers, vegetables, and herbs thrive in pots and can all be grown successfully on your patio or balcony. The best part is, you aren't limited to traditional flower pots. Any container works, from buckets to wooden crates, as long as it's the right size for the plant and has ample drainage. With the right elements, anyone can transform their patio into a flowering oasis.

What you will need:

  • A variety of pots/containers
  • A variety of patio plants (herbs, veggies, flowers)
  • Weed barrier cloth
  • Stones
  • Water retention granules
  • Watering can
  • Fertiliser
  • Mulch
  • Potting mix
  • Coir
  • A collection of pots and containers is all you need to turn a small space into a blossoming garden. The options are endless to how you arrange your container garden. You can buy standard pots from your local garden centre or get creative with some DIY. There's no limit to your imagination.
  • Make sure your pots are ready for planting. Whether you're using standard flower pots or repurposing containers, you need to ensure there are drainage holes in the bottom. It is easy enough to drill holes if there aren't any. If necessary, cover the holes with weed barrier cloth (this is to keep the soil and stones from falling through while still allowing water to pass). Place stones on top of the cloth to help the water drain. Adequate drainage is vital for pot plants. Stagnant water can cause fungus, bacteria and rotting roots.
  • A secret to successful container gardening is the mix you use to fill your pots. Start with mixing equal parts of potting mix and coir. Coir is a natural fibre made from the outer husk of a coconut. It is used in hanging baskets and containers to retain water as it can absorb up to ten times its weight. It also deters pests. How to use coir: Submerge a coir brick in water, let it absorb water, and then start breaking it up.
  • Alternatively, another water-wise option for your potting soil is water retention granules. These hydrated granules absorb the surrounding nutrients and moisture in the soil medium. Surrounding heat and the feeding plant gradually drains the crystals. They will fill up with water again when the soil is next irrigated. It isn't necessary to use both coir and water retention granules, one or the other is fine.
  • Once your soil is prepared (make sure you mix it well), you can fill your pots with the mixture. Be sure to leave enough room for your plants.
  • Plant your plants in the prepared pots and place mulch on top of the soil. The mulch helps trap moisture in the soil and can be organic materials such as bark, compost, and fallen leaves, or inorganic like stones. We used bark.
  • Your plants need nourishment to grow. You have the option of liquid or granular fertilisers. Liquid fertiliser is probably best for containers and pots, as it can be mixed into water and spread over plants easily, and reaches plant roots quicker.
  • Don't forget to water your plants. If you aren't sure how often to water, get a moisture reader and check the levels in your soil. You should avoid letting your plants dry out completely. When picking your watering can be aware of the different rose (sprinkler head) options. They can range from a fine spray to a strong flow of water. A gentle release of water is better for seedlings.
  • Be aware of the space when choosing the plants for your patio garden. Is it shaded or sunny? Does the area receive a lot of water? These factors will influence what plants you decide to grow. If your patio gets a lot of shade you won't be planting flowers needing full sunlight.
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