Give plants a break

Container planting
Container planting
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No sooner is the spring-cleaning finished, than it’s time to prepare container plants for summer. And then autumn, and winter, and spring yet again.

The big problem with summer is that people go on holiday – which means that plants are usually left to fend for themselves. You can stick the cat in the cattery, the dog in the doggery and the hamster in the whatever, but plants in pots tend to stay put.

So, if you are a serious gardener and you have lots of plants in containers, it will probably pay you to invest in a watering system. Small pipes are laid around the garden and even smaller offshoots lead off into individual pots.

While you’re enjoying the heat of the Algarve, your plants are enjoying the English ‘summer’ guaranteed of a regular watering.

Alternatively, persuade or bribe a reliable neighbour to pop round on a regular basis to do the watering.

So, that’s the summer taken care of. Now to autumn.

This is a busier time with container-grown plants. Throw out the annuals and empty their pots. Re-fill them with fresh compost and re-plant with winter-flowerers or spring bulbs.

Then fast forward to winter.

Protect vulnerable plants by taking then indoors or into a greenhouse; alternatively, if the container isn’t too big, dig a hole outdoors and plunge the pot and its contents into the soil. Hopefully, when the frosts come, they won’t be able to penetrate deep enough to do any damage.

And watch out when you’re watering. Normally, it’s not necessary in winter, because the majority of plants will be dormant and won’t need liquids refreshment. The more water in as pot, the greater the chance of frost damage.,

And then we are back to spring.

Now fork out the top layer of compost, break up the compacted surface and adds a new layer of compost. Add a slow-release fertiliser and prepare for another good year for plants and gardener alike.

If the plants in question have been in their respective containers for several years, take them out, break open their root balls (perhaps trim some of the outer roots) and pop into a bigger container. Then replant with fresh compost and water well.

And that’s the year in the life of your average outdoor, container-grown plant.