Pot Luck? No! Good Planning And Prep

In the 19th of her series Clippings From A Small Garden, travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

There’s a lot to be said for putting plants in pots. Well-planted pots make delightful miniature gardens. As well, single flower plantings can be placed in and moved around your existing garden to catch the sun, brighten a dull corner or hide a gap, or so you can work out which final position – perhaps planted out of the pot – will best suit them. As well, potting up a plant you’re not familiar with will give you an opportunity to see its colour, size and growth habit before you commit valuable ground space to it.

But beware! Plants in pots need extra care; neglect them and you’ll lose them…

  • Pots need regular watering. If the pot is terracotta, water the pot and then the soil. If you don’t, and just water the soil, thirsty terracotta can steal the water for itself, and your plants could die of thirst
  • Pots need feeding. Choose a compost with long-term ‘food’ built in and the plants will do well for longer; but soil in pots will eventually be depleted of all nutrients, leaving your plants to starve to death. I add food – ie fertiliser – to the soil in all my pots twice a year, in spring and again near the end of the flowering season.
  • Pots need weeding. There shouldn’t be many weeds, but if they thrive they’ll rob your plants of root space, and deprive them of nutrients, so be vigilant.
  • Pots need top-dressing if plants are staying in them. I do this when winter’s over, trowelling out the topmost 3-or-so inches, spiking the remaining surface to aerate it, then adding fresh replacement compost and watering well.
  • Pots need a fresh start for new plants. It doesn’t seem fair to put a new plant into a pot of old compost, so I scatter that in the garden, and fork it in. Then I make a new home for the new plant. First, a circle of fine mesh to keep out pests. Then a few large stones, topped with a handful of gravel to aid drainage. Next about two-thirds of the compost I’ll need, which I then lightly water. In goes the plant – with a well-soaked rootball. I add the remaining compost, water thoroughly, and then add a plant label because…
  • Pots need labelling so you don’t forget what’s in them!

Next time: what to put in your pots.

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs www.perfectlyworded.co.uk, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and www.HotelsThatWereNot.com, a website showcasing properties with a past.