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17 September 2014
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how to be a gardener - The complete online guide

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4 - Planting
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How to plant in containers
Planting in containers is a bit different again, because you also have to supply the planting medium, and make sure that when watering it soaks in, rather than runs off the top.
The 3cm (1in) watering gap
You will need
  • Container (not all containers have drainage holes, so drill some in them if neccessary)
  • Crocks’ (bits of broken clay pots or large stones)
  • Gravel
  • Potting or multipurpose compost - preferably peat free
  • Mulch
Cover the base of the pot with a layer of broken pots1. Cover the base of the pot with a layer of crocks (ask at the garden centre – they usually have a few broken pots) and cover with a 5cm (2in) layer of gravel. This improves drainage and prevents soil washing out of the container.
Add compost2. Add enough compost so that when standing on it, the top of the rootball is 3cm (1in) below the container rim. Make this 6cm (2in) if you want to put an artistic mulch of stone chips or small pebbles on top of the compost. This will look attractive, help prevent weed growth, and reduce moisture evaporation. It is better to use moist compost rather than dry. Moisten it until it just holds together as you squeeze it. It will absorb water so much better after planting.
Potting or multipurpose compost is suitable for most plants, but if the plants are acid lovers, for example rhododendrons (remember Module 1) use ericaceous compost.

Coir, bark (and peat) composts weigh less than loam-based ones. Both can be mixed with topsoil, leaf mould or garden compost to enrich them, but use a mulch of compost to prevent weeds.
3. Remove the plant from its pot and gently tease out the roots if pot-bound. Place in the new pot, and stand upright.
4. Gently firm compost around the roots, leaving the 3cm (1in) watering gap.
Water-in5. Add smaller plants – you’ll need to excavate the compost and make sure they are also 3cm (1in) below the rim. Put on the mulch. Or simply water the plants in well – until you see water coming out of the bottom of the container. Do this in stages, giving the water time to soak into the compost.

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In module 5 you can find out how to keep your plants looking their best with basic tips on watering, feeding and pruning.
4. Practical planting

Preparing the ground
Buying plants
 How to plant in the garden
 Variations on a planting theme
 How to plant in containers
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