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Container Gardening for Shrubs

The most important aspect of container gardening is choosing a pot that is big enough to take the plant being grown in it, and substantial enough to prevent tipping over. If the plant is to be left out all year, then it must also be frost proof.

The compost needs to be loam based, as they retain nutrients better than potting compost. If you have chosen plants in the Ericaceae family, such as Rhododendrons, Heathers, Pieris and so on, or Camellia’s, they need to be planted in an ericaceous compost, which is free of lime. Pot culture is particularly suitable if you wish to grow any of these plants and have alkaline soil.

Ensure that the pot has a good drainage hole in the base, which then needs to be covered with a layer of drainage, usually larger stones or broken terracotta pots, to a depth of about 7cms. If you have no stones or crocks, broken up polystyrene can be used instead. By providing good drainage, you will prevent waterlogging at the roots, which can drown the plant in summer, or freeze and break the pot in winter. It is also a good idea to raise the pots, either on feet you can buy in the garden centre, or placing bricks, or blocks of wood underneath. This way, there is no danger of drainage being impeded.

Fill the pot to about half way with compost, or to a depth to allow the plants root ball to be accommodated without standing proud of the rim of the pot. The plant should be well-watered before placed in the container. It is also wise to tease the roots out if the plant has been in its container for a while.

Place the plant in the centre of the pot and trickle in the remaining compost around it. It’s a good idea to tap the container, and occasionally shake it, to ensure the compost fills in any gaps around the roots. At this stage, mix in slow release fertiliser to feed the plant slowly over a long period, and swell gel to increase the water holding capacity of the compost.

If the container is very large, position it where it is going to remain, as the weight may well be doubled or even trebled after potting up. Ensure that the plant is growing in a situation to suit it, and that it is not on direct winds, as these will dry out shrubs very quickly.

Water the pots frequently, even after heavy rain, as you are the sole supplier of the water on which they depend. The compost will initially have a supply for nutrients for the first couple of months, but after that, it needs to be supplemented by a liquid feed in the growing season.

If the plant is to remain in the container, it is good practice to remove the top few centimetres of soil in the autumn, and replace it with fresh, and to incorporate bonemeal into the compost. Prune the shrub as you would any plant in open ground. If you choose to move the plant into a bigger container, only increase the pot size by a 1/3 to a _. Feed ericaceous species with a sequestered iron fertiliser to prevent leaves from turning yellow.







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