Container gardening: the basics

Read our guide and explore how to get started on container gardening


our pots and how to fill them

Deciding what sort of pots and containers you would like in your garden is the fun part, and entirely dictated by personal preference. However, one important thing to check is that every pot you choose has holes to enable the water to drain out of the bottom. Some pots will have one central hole in very bottom, others will have holes dotted around the base. 


First things first, make sure you have broken crockery (such as old pots and plates) for drainage to hand. Broken, terracotta, slate, or polyester boxes, that are clogging up space in your garden shed, are all great options. Simply place these at the very bottom of the container, covering the drainage hole without clogging it. This easy step will ensure the drainage holes don’t get blocked by soggy, compacted compost. 


For a perennial plant that will return year after year (for example, pittosporum) – use a John Innes No3 compost. Combine with a good quality, peat-free multipurpose compost (25%) such as Sarah Raven Peat-free Compost


It’s best practice to change the top 3-5cm of compost on the top of your plant every year or so – replacing the old soil with new. This is called top dressing, and a tried and tested way to keep your plants looking and feeling healthier for longer. If you’re looking to take your soil health one step further, add a controlled release fertiliser, such as Osmocote to provide even more nutrients for your plants. 


For a seasonal container, that you plan to maintain for one season only, multi-purpose peat-free compost is a worthy choice. For bigger containers, we often fill the lower half with older compost, to manage supplies. Top tip - Mole hills make the perfect filler for containers, so why not put it to good use? 


watering & feeding

Containers always require more watering than plants in the ground. In dull or cool weather, stick your finger in the compost to see if it’s damp, if it’s not, it might be time to water your container. 


There are no set rules, this is because it’s dependent on weather and container size (i.e., the bigger the pot, the more water it holds.) 


In summertime, at Perch Hill, Sarah and the team use a tried and tested system that keeps everything running smoothly. Aim to water Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and feed your pots every other Friday. 


In a heatwave, pots can be watered daily, especially the smaller ones. And by July, the compost might have little fertiliser left in it, so it’s the perfect time to start feeding fortnightly with a liquid feed such as Natural Grower Natural Fertiliser


planting into pots

When considering the quantity of plants per pot, you really can be generous. If you have several plants in a pot for an abundant summer display (e.g. the White Collection) you can pack them in tight, at twice the density you would usually space them in your beds or borders. You will then get a fabulous show, plus, there’s no room for weeds. 


If you are choosing to plant seedlings or rooted cuttings, still plant densely, but be mindful of the fact that these young plants will more than double in size by the end of their growing season. You can find more information on the different sizes and types of plants we sell here (insert link to our plants and how to grow them). 


You can find more information on how best to plant in pots and containers here