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Gardening in Pots

Some very chilly starts and persistent frosts have welcomed in winter on the golden plains.  I love winter frosts, they are just so beautiful.

They do little or no damage in my garden and nor should they in yours.  If you have plants which are cut by frosts and struggle to recover, replace with them with frost tolerant species. In our garden, the frosts finished off the capsicums in the vegetable garden, and burnt the tips of some Salvia’s which will recover and thrive as we head into Spring.

Late Spring frosts can be far more harsh and worth watching out for.  They can do more damage as the growth is new and tender making new growth very susceptible. It’s also a time when young flower and vegetable seedlings need protecting but more about that later.

Although Citrus can get nipped by a heavy frost in spring, they perform brilliantly throughout the region.  Our young citrus are thriving and having recently visited a local citrus orchard I am very inspired to plant more.  We have very nice Lemons and grapefruit but now must find space for a mouth-watering navel orange. These crop heavy into winter and are the best tasting orange in my opinion.  All citrus trees should be planted in a well-drained, moisture retentive soil.  I feed twice yearly in October and again late March.  This feeds Spring /Summer growth after the main threat of frosts have past and maintains a healthy fruit laden tree going into winter.  Water citrus well every fortnight over summer to maintain healthy fruit set and maintain a thin rind.  For best results, mulch Citrus trees well over summer to protect shallow fibrous roots which run close to the soil surface.

To add interest in colour and height we have started placing some feature pots around our garden.  Our block is flat, and pots instantly add layers, interest and a focal point to draw the eye. Choose to suit your taste and garden style.

Select plants which are easy to maintain and always place close to a reliable and easy source of water  e.g. just outside your door, near a tap or water tank. Succulents look great and are easy to maintain.  Look for interesting forms and texture and expect to pay a little more for older specimens with character which can be many years old.  For a Bonsai tree type habitat look for Crassula species or Jade.  For flowering succulents you cannot go past winter flowering Aloes.  Some succulents are prone to frost damage so check first.

Herbs are great in pots planted singularly or as a mixed herb garden.  Keep these handy to the kitchen and tip prune regularly. Even if you are not continuously using them in your meals, tip pruning will extend their potted life.

Indoors or outdoors, pots are not a plants natural habitat. There are exceptions, but expect to get a few years out of your potted plants then replace and start again.  Use the opportunity to try something different; something fashionable or an old favourite!

Feed pot plants regularly throughout the growth season. If you have a fish tank, empty water into potted plants as a fertiliser. If you can find Troforte, it’s a great slow release feed. It also encourages general health and disease resistance. Liquid fertilisers such as Seasol are also worthy of application over summer.

Use a quality potting mix.  Cheap brands are made largely from sawdust and other cheap ingredients.  They break down and begin to compost quickly stealing nitrogen away from your plant and losing its structure.  This leads to a lack of available oxygen in the soil. Cheap potting mixes can also be hard to rewet once becoming dry.  They shrink making it very difficult to get moisture back into the core of the pot. Inevitably your plant will never perform as well as it potentially could in a better grade of potting mix.  I would not spend less than $7 on a bag of potting mix. Cheap potting mix costs you more  in the long run in nearly all cases.

A good quality potting mix on the other hand is scientifically formulated and made from quality ingredients.  It will maintain its structure, and provide adequate drainage whilst holding moisture for far longer periods of time. It should not repel water after drying out and include a few weeks of nutrient including trace elements to ensure plants are given the best possible start. Oh and no need for gravel or “crock” in the bottom of your pots, quality potting mix does not require it!

Also on the topic of potting mixes; adhere to the principle “Use only as directed”.  Potting mixes are not soil improvers, and although they will generally do little harm(and in some cases maybe some good), composts or a garden mixes will, “as directed” and, as intended, do a far better job at improving your soil quality in both the short and longer term.

Happy Gardening!,  Chris Hose.