This time of year is a great time to enjoy looking ahead to summer and planning what will be going on in your garden in the brighter months. If you’re short on bedding space, are working with a small space like a yard, or simply want to spruce up a patio, planting in containers is a great way to bring areas of interest and colour to your plot. You can get really creative with the types of plants you choose and create some lovely potted arrangements that will spring into life at staggered points throughout the year, or even play with fruiting plants to harvest through the summer.
Things to consider:
- Will your containers be outside all year round? If so, they might be prone to cracking in the frost, making them a hassle to move indoors. Terracotta pots look lovely, but there are fibreglass or plastic alternatives that are more hardwearing and lighter.
- Be careful when planting summer flowering bulbs this month, as a late frost can irreparably damage tender young shoots. Always make sure you plant your bulbs deep enough in the soil – about three times the height of the bulb itself is a good benchmark.
- It’s a good idea to use pot feet to raise your container off the ground and prevent waterlogging. Drill extra holes in the base of your pot if you don’t think there’s adequate drainage.
- A layer of broken up pots, gravel, pebbles or polystyrene should be placed at the bottom of a pot to help with clear drainage and prevent compost being washed out.
Planting for spring interest:
Pot up some spring blooming plants this month and you’ll most likely get a good six weeks of enjoyment from them. Polyanthus, violas, ranunculus and forget-me-nots are all good easy options.
Planting for summer colour:
With some careful planning and consideration, summer bulbs can be planted in April ready for a lovely pop of colour later in the year. Good bulbs to choose are patio dahlias, dwarf gladioli and compact lilies, which are limited in terms of how tall they will grow. It’s important to plant your bulbs the correct depth under the surface of the compost to avoid them sending up shoots before the risk of frost has passed: patio dahlias and dwarf gladioli need to be planted about 1-2 inches deep, and lily bulbs just above the base of your container. Remember to add broken pots or gravel to the bottom of your pot to help with drainage. If you have access to a greenhouse, you can get a head start by keeping your baskets and containers under cover until the summer, when they will have filled out beautifully.
Planting in unusual containers:
Container planting is a great chance to get creative with your choices. Wheelbarrows, olive oil cans, even wrought iron fireplaces – I’ve seen some beautiful items repurposed as planters! I also love an alpine planter, filled with hardy and colourful plants that are ideal for spring colour. Here you can watch my video on creating an alpine container planter.
This is a great idea, as strawberries tend to really thrive when grown in containers and it’s such a treat to have the delicious berries to eat throughout the summer. One plant should last you about two or three years. Plant about six young plants in a large (about 15-inch) pot this month and place in a sunny spot, or about five small plants around the edge of a hanging basket if you’re short on space. By June you should have a large, ornamental plant display and after the first year you’ll have a great crop of juicy fruit. Other great container fruit plants to try are cordon-trained redcurrants and gooseberries, or dwarf apple and cherry trees.
Planting trees in containers:
This is surprisingly easy and effective, and can bring a range of shapes and sizes to your patio or outdoor space. Young ‘dwarf’ trees can be readily purchased at garden centres, and re-planted into a pot of at least 15 inches diameter (the pot acts like a corset, and stops the tree getting bigger than it might in open soil). Line the base of your pot with plenty of gravel or broken pots, and cover this with plenty of compost like John Innes No 3 potting compost. Place the rootball of the tree in the centre of the pot, and position a strong stake next to the tree’s trunk, secured with tree ties. Fill the pot with more compost, water thoroughly and place in a sunny spot.