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How to succeed at container gardening

by PU Chien. Posted on December 11, 2011, Sunday

FROM beautiful flowers to interesting foliage plants, fruits and vegetables, container gardening is a popular choice locally, particularly for homes with small compounds.

The right container placed in the right setting can be very attractive and add a special touch. If you are going to invest in a new town house with limited space for gardening, a few well chosen container plants can create a spectacular miniature oasis.

 

BRIGHT BLOOMS: Having pots full of flowers can add much needed colour to dull areas.

Choice of containers

The first step to successful container gardening is to select the appropriate containers or pots. Think carefully about what you are going to plant and choose containers that will showcase the plants to their full advantage. You also need to consider the amount of space your chosen plants will require.

Nowadays there are many plastic pots to choose from. Good quality plastic will last for several years but remember that they will lose their glossy colour when exposed to sunlight and other elements. They are particularly convenient if you wish to move them from time to time as they are lighter and can also be used for hanging pots.

For longer lasting containers, opt for terracotta or earthenware pots. Do note that you will need to clean them occasionally to prevent fungi from destroying their beauty.

If you want more permanent containers, try using planter boxes. You can also attach planter boxes to walls if you lack space.

The right plants

Always examine the surroundings before choosing plants. This will allow you to match colour schemes and foliage patterns.

Plants suitable for containers include bougainvillea, murraya, lantana, hibiscus, canna, calathea, gardenia, zingiber and heliconia.

Purchase healthy specimens from garden centres, or dig up existing plants from a garden bed.

Potting mix

It is quite easy to find good potting mixes imported from Peninsular Malaysia and overseas. The best quality peat moss is imported from Holland.

Local traders mainly use yellow or red/brown pazolic mineral soil as top soil. These lack pH level adjustment and fibre for aeration. This is not really suitable for delicate flowers such as petunia and gerbera.

You may still need to tweak with the mixture at home for good container planting, especially for hanging pots. Good mixtures would require, amongst others, lime (calcium carbonate, dolomite for pH adjustment), slow release fertilisers and basal dressing, especially rooting promoters such as phosphorus and hormones, as well as compost.

Preventive pesticides can also be used to ‘clean’ the potting mixture to ensure the good establishment of plants. This will prevent common diseases such as damping off, root rot fungi and bacteria.

Planting guide

Once these items have been prepared, half fill the pot with the planting medium. Unpack the plantlets you wish to grow and insert into the pot. Fill in more potting mixture to around two inches below the edge. You need to leave room for watering and future fertiliser application or else there will be some overflow, which will dirty the ground or floor.

Water the plantlets to ensure they get enough moisture to establish themselves while
waiting for new rootlets to function and absorb water and nutrients.

Avoid direct sunlight initially, especially if the plantlets are not fully transplanted materials.

Finally arrange your containers as creatively as you can to fully showcase the plants.

Happy gardening. Do send me an email for details.

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