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Containers are a great way of producing growing space where very little seems to exist, such as on balconies or small outdoor spaces. They can create planting potential on a paved patio space or introduce different levels of planting by creating a tiered effect.

Containers allow for choice in both size and scope of what you wish to grow. Some containers will be small enough to act as an attractive centre piece on an outdoor table and others will be large enough to allow work to be done comfortably from a standing position. It may be you have a selection of pots, some fixed raised beds made of rail sleepers or brick, or recycled materials such as an old sink or planting bags to plant into.

Be careful of waterlogging as this could result in the plants being susceptible to root rot or dying due to lack of available oxygen to the roots. Drainage is key, for this reason make sure your containers have sufficient enough holes at the base, so they avoid becoming waterlogged.

Ilford Recorder Imogen Braddick 1

Make sure to choose containers that will comfortably provide root space for the plants you wish to grow. You do not wish to stress the plant or have a plant that demands a lot of watering due to lack of available moisture in its growing environment.

While containers allow for greater control of growing medium and are easier to keep free from pests and diseases it is still worth bearing in mind that some pests and diseases such as vine weevil and ants can thrive within them. With smaller containers the solution can be as easy as emptying your container, cleaning it out and starting again.

We will look here at growing containers for annual and alpine plants and the differences in growing conditions they require and what is feasible with both these plants in way of what they offer.

  • Allows great physical access to those standing up or sitting down without being specifically aimed at those with disabilities.
  • A chance to nurture and care for plants, which in turn provides us with a sense of wellbeing
  • Can create sense of ownership for an individual and allow space to be creative and share/explore ideas in a safe and workable environment.
  • Development of fine and gross motor skills and coordination.
  • Containers can be moved around to suit conditions preferred by plants. Allowing bananas or ginger to taken inside over winter therefore broadening scope of growing
  • Involve children from the start of the process by asking what they would like to see grow and tap into their individual affinity for nature.
  • Look into what materials can be recycled and allow kids to learn the importance of conservation
  • Let them paint and play a part in the construction of container to further cement a feeling of ownership of the project. As well as explore ideas and be creative, involve toys they own and create ‘new lands’ within the growing environment
  • Incorporate sensory plants, that may provoke fascination in nature around them. You may even spend time exploring what wildlife is observable with a magnifying glass.
  • Gardening has many avenues for fitting in curriculum-based learning such as measuring growth for maths, observations on the plants for creative writing, as well incorporating the sciences and arts and crafts.
  • Using sticks or larger dead plant material in place of crocks or stones at the bottom of the container can act as drainage and make the containers lighter to move around
  • When tabletop gardening try and think about the height you will be working at, ideally you want your elbows and shoulders at right angles so that you are not overreaching and adding pressure to tendons and joints. Sometimes containers sat on a chair are a more comfortable height than sat on the table.
  • Spending a few minutes getting your working position set up makes the task easier and more enjoyable, try to be positioned close to the work area, keep a natural posture not bending the back.
  • Pace yourself, as long as plants have soil covering their roots and moisture they can be left for an hour, day, or longer until you are ready to finish.

Annuals are plants that complete their full lifecycle in the space of one year. Ensure plants are well watered before placing in containers. Remove any dead or yellowing growth from stems and leaves as well as dead flowers before planting.

  1. Partially fill your container or bowl with multipurpose peat free compost removing large lumps as you do so
  2. Place annuals in pots where you wish to plant them to get better idea of spacing and so base of the plant is equal to the height of the container
  3. The tallest plants are best suited to the centre or back of the container to allow for better access to light
  4. Gently take plants out of the pots, being sure not to damage their roots or stem whilst doing so
  5. If plants have become ‘rootbound’ gently tease the roots out to encourage them to grow fully within container
  6. Try not to overpack the container with plants to avoid overcrowding
  7. Fill the container with the rest of the growing medium, being sure not to overfill or bury stems or leaves in the compost which could result in damage to the plant
  8. Water the plants by using a watering can with a rose attachment

Alpines such as Dianthus or Saxifraga are hardy so can survive outside in cold winters, they do not however like their roots being submerged in cold water so require good drainage and prefer a neutral or slightly alkaline soil.

  • To achieve a better planting medium mix compost 50/50 with sand, grit or pearlite to further promote drainage
  • As a last step of planting lightly apply level of gardening grit or gravel to improve look of container and suppress potential weed growth

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Rebecca H potting up Charlie Garner 2019 2