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Container gardening

Help solve your gardening problem. Here are the answers to some commonly asked gardening questions about container gardening, pots, tubs, containers, window boxes and hanging baskets with hints, tips and advice.

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How do I rejuvenate tired looking wooden and metal containers?

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How do I look after plants growing in containers on the patio?

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Is it worth using controlled-release fertilisers and water-holding gels in winter baskets and containers?

Controlled-release fertilisers only release their nutrients when the temperature is warm enough and when the compost is moist. They won't release feed when conditions are too cold for growth, so there is no chance of overfeeding your plants.

Although the gels are more effective in summer, there is no reason why you can't use them during the winter - they will help keep your plants growing well. But it is vital that there is plenty of drainage in the container or they will add to waterlogging problems.

For an  excellent range of controlled-release fertilisers and Broadleaf P4, probably the best water-holding gel, visit the Greenacres Direct website.

Have you got any tips on planting up winter and spring hanging baskets? I've used winter-flowering pansies in the past but they've never looked very good.

Winter-flowering pansies are perfect choices for such baskets - they can even be used to make complete ball-shaped baskets - but you must plant them early. Planting in October or later never gives the plants long enough to get established before the cold weather arrives. This is also true of pansies that are bedded out.

The best time for planting is September, using the largest plants you can get hold of. If you use young plug plants, or if you live in a cold part of the country, you should plant up in early September.

Ensure you make the basket look full from the start, and pinch off all flowers and flower buds until the plants are fully established. Don't overfeed the plants, and you may have to move the baskets to a sheltered spot if the winter is particularly severe.

Underplanting with a selection of dwarf bulbs - like crocus and miniature daffodils and tulips - will provide extra colour in late winter and spring.


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