A planter brings joy and spring colors | gardening tips
After a winter that promises to be endless, this weekend is finally the right time to start planting window boxes, and with two handy tricks, you can have them splashing around on a treadmill of color until the first frosts.
Container gardening offers a range of benefits. This allows you to grow plants that would otherwise not thrive in your local soil type; you can raise the color to eye level and beyond, allowing you to decorate entire buildings in living green; and, of course, it provides even those without a garden at all with a vital horticultural solution.
However, growing in containers has two significant drawbacks. Their relatively small volume compared to garden soil means they always dry out quickly, which may require daily watering in the height of summer. The same goes for fertilizers, which not only represent a lot of extra work, but also extra expenses. This combination means that many bedding plants – which have been bred for their lightning metabolism to fuel rapid growth – can run out of steam from July. But things don’t have to be that way.
First, consider your container. The larger it is, the slower it will dry out, with the added benefit of being less prone to severe temperature fluctuations, which can hinder growth. It is also worth choosing a pot made of non-porous material. Unglazed terracotta is filled with tiny pores, which means that moisture constantly escapes. Metals, such as aluminum and zinc, can heat up too quickly in hot weather and burn delicate roots. Resins and composites, to me, offer the best of both worlds. Not only do they seal in moisture, but they also often have thick walls, which act as insulation.
Now let’s talk about growing media. Traditionally, they would have been compost-based, made from plant fibers, such as environmentally disastrous peat, or wood pulp. These were introduced in the middle of the 20th century because they are lighter in weight and therefore cost less to transport, and by extension they are more profitable for companies to whip around. Containing few minerals necessary for plant growth, they also require you to buy fertilizer. It breaks down over time, so it must be redeemed every spring. Growing media also have the annoying habit of being hydrophobic when they dry out, actively repelling water instead of absorbing it.
Soil-based mixes, on the other hand, do not suffer from any of these problems and are usually sold under the John Innes label (a generic term that refers to soil-based formulas – it is not a trade name ). Now, of course, there’s a balance here – larger boxes filled with soil-based media will be much heavier, so you’ll need to keep that in mind versus the medium you have. However, in the vast majority of cases, these swaps should be easily accommodated, saving you time and money, being better for the planet, and giving you a longer season of color to enjoy.
So get outside this weekend and plant a planter. A simple act that makes your world more beautiful and gives us, on our small scale, hope for good things to come. Something I think we could all do now.
Follow Jack on Twitter @Botanygeek