Featured Article

Container Gardening

Container gardening has been staging a dramatic revival. The Market place is filled with a wide variety of pots in all sizes, colors, shapes and styles including hanging baskets. This is probably the easiest and the most rewarding type of gardening. The gardener has complete control over everything except the weather. 

The gardener can:

  • Choose his/hers own containers, their size, shape, color and the material he/she wishes to use.
  • Decide where they are to be placed.
  • Decide which type of growing media to use, soil, peat or potting soil etc.
  • Decide which plant he/she wishes to grow.
  • Change the display at will (moving containers from place to place).

There are some limitations to container gardening:

  • Size - One can't grow a tree on a balcony or in front of a window.
  • Weight - Moving heavy containers can be quite difficult. However, don't forget small containers dry out quite quickly.

These are minor problems in comparison to the heavy digging and constant weeding gardens require.

Places for Container Plants:-

There is a place in every garden for plants in containers. Efforts to achieve low maintenance and put seasonal splashes of bright color and glamour where they can be enjoyed is the advantage of container gardening. You can create instant green areas where ever required and contribute to the structural design of your garden.

Around the Exterior of the House:

  • Put containers of annuals among ground cover at the entrance to a walk way.
  • Containers of annuals with evergreens add impact to a plain doorway.
  • Place a shade loving plant in a corner.
  • Steps are a natural place to put containers. Mark the top steps with low containers of flowers, or if the steps are wide place pots at the ends of each step to make a most inviting pathway.
  • Quite often patios and terraces or paths and walls are not designed with adequate planting areas. Containers with shrubs and annuals will cut the glare and heat of the sun and give pleasing cool green areas to an otherwise baron construction.
  • A small patio or garden yard with no apparent space for plants can benefit from plants grown in hanging baskets. A bookcase hung on a wall, cascading with colorful small plants in pretty containers is another idea for this type of area.

Pools, gardens and other areas:

  • A border of plants in containers around a pool doubles the enjoyment with reflection in the water.
  • Porches and patios need plants in containers to give that finished look.
  • Balconies and roof gardens could not get along without plants in containers.

Therefore, plants in containers are an asset to any garden scene from all aspects. They add that much needed personal touch and choice of container:

There is always some space, no matter how small it may be, that it would be a crime not to invest in a movable feast of color using a variety of plants in containers to create an ever changing landscape.

General rules (choosing containers)

Committing plants to life in a container means their need must be considered when containers are chosen. Container durability is important, since we hope the plants will thrive for many years to come.

  • Appearance: Large containers dry out less quickly. Smaller ones can be grouped together. Small pots can also be grouped inside
    larger containers.
  • Weight: Don't forget, large containers filled, planted and watered will weigh a considerable amount. Always select their position
    before filling and planting. For flat roofs, balconies and walls, plastic pots would weigh less filled with compost.  
  • The right size: although a perennial tree or shrub may eventually grow to a considerable size, it is a mistake to plant it in too large a pot as its roots will be surrounded by an excess of moist compost –stagnant breeding ground for disease. Too small a
    container is just as bad as the root will soon run out of space. The general rule of potting on, is to chose the exact size approximately 2.5 cm (1 in.) of new compost around the ball.
  • Drainage holes: Before filling with compost and planting, check all containers have clear drainage holes. Cover them with mesh to keep out unwelcome visitors, soil pests, wood lice,slugs and even worms.
    Plants in containers General rules: Growing plants in containers doesn't make them ready to tolerate whatever conditions you or the environment inflicts on them.
  • The growth habitat of a plant is a major factor in selecting plants for use in containers. Plants are generally of an upright or weeping form. Plants of an upright form should be grown in containers whilst those with weeping form frequently used in hanging baskets.

This is not an absolute rule.

  • To ensure success, begin container gardening by using tried and tested evergreen plant materials which are available locally. Later on the gardener can experiment with plants from distant sources.
  • Consider your plants likes and dislikes. Select their location carefully moving their containers if possible when weather conditions change with the seasons.
  • Choose plants that are healthy and vigorous with no sign of pests or disease. Large roots growing through the drainage holes shows   starvation and irregular watering, these plants seldom recover from such ill treatment.
  • The only way to keep a large plant sufficiently dwarfed in order to thrive, in the limited space of a container, is to root prune. It is not necessary the remove the plant from the pot to achieve this. Instead, simply dig in deeply around the root ball and extract the old roots which can then be clipped back. When this has been done, cut away some of the upper portions of the plant. As fresh top growth takes place more efficient new feeder roots will now have room to develop in the soil. This is grooming the plant.
  • Water consistently during the growing seasons. Twice daily during heat waves. Water from top.
  • Vegetables and herbs planted in containers – if you don't wish to grow a whole garden of vegetables and herbs, but desire a small variety just to add flavor to your meals and to decorate a patio, use any kind of container as long as it has suitable drainage holes.
  • Make sure the plants you use have been grown in containers.

Container plant management:-

  • For plants to survive in container for 3 – 4 years use a mixture of sand +peat +organic fertilizer as the growing media.
  • When transplanting make sure the root ball stays nicely intact.
  • Use stones in drainage hole.
  • To aid drainage, containers are best raised off the ground. This also deters wood lice and slugs from hiding underneath

There are special terra-cotta or stone colored "feet" which can be placed under containers.

  • Water plants well, at least an hour before transplanting, even if there is no possibility of disturbing the roots.
  • It is probably best to change the location of your containers when the plants are being changed as well.
  • Because of limited compost and generally warmer conditions it is best to use a weekly soluble or liquid feed instead of a slow release fertilizer which is absorbed more rapidly when the temperature rises.

Written and presented by: Mrs Zahra Abdul Malik

This article is included in the 50th anniversary book of The Bahrain Garden Club.

Note: Please refer to Bahrain Garden Club disclaimer note

THE BGC is Affiliated to The Royal Horticultural Society - UK since 1966