Chris Collins – al fresco container gardening

Chris Collins

Chris Collins – al fresco container gardening


If it’s colour you’re after, then garden centres are currently full to the brim with plants that just keep on giving.  The common bedding plant might not be that unusual but they really do work their socks off when it comes to giving you colour.

Humble characters like Petunias, Lobelia and geraniums kick off their flowering season in early June and last well into the autumn.

Arrange them in a large pot, placing a tall specimen, such as a Canna Lily in the centre.  Surround it with lower growing colour like Begonias and then finish off with a plant that cascades over the edge of the pot such as an Ivy Leaved Pelargonium or a Lobelia.  A good multi-purpose compost will kick these plants off nicely.

Remember the key to successful seasonal bedding is to make sure you check if they need water on a daily basis.  If you really want to boost their performance, a little bit of liquid feed diluted into your watering can will certainly help.  Finally, pick off the dead flowers from time to time to make sure they keep producing.


A good solid container filled with herbs is a great addition to any garden.  It is also ideal for the busy person who easily forgets about plants, as herbs are remarkably resilient.   Most come from Mediterranean countries and are used to dry conditions with a poor soil.

Considering how great they look and how useful they are when cooking, most outdoor spaces can accommodate a herb pot.  They are particularly good on a small sunny patio or a balcony or even a window ledge in a trough.

Choose the tougher herbs to begin with.  Mints are almost indestructible and enjoy the confinement of a pot.  Mix with Oregano, some purple leaved Sage to add some color mix and how about an upright Rosemary for a centrepiece.

It’s a good idea to mix some horticultural sand or gravel to your multi-purpose compost to encourage drainage as herbs are not fond of having wet feet!

Finally, remember to use your herbs as that’s what they are there for.  Clip them regularly to keep them compact.


You don’t need a huge allotment to experience the joys of fresh veg.  A decent raised bed, trough or large pot will work just as well for you and will produce results quicker than you think.

Quick crops from seed, that can soon be mixed into salads or sandwiches is an easy thing to achieve.  Choose a decent container and pick a bright sunny spot for it.  Don’t skimp on the compost and preferably use a good Loam based container compost.  Even add a bit of seed compost to the surface to give your plants an excellent start.  When sowing, sow in lines to make sure you can tell your veg apart from any unwanted weeds.

Sow cut and come again Lettuce and Rocket to get your confidence going, these plants can be ready in as little as four weeks.  You can them move onto Spinach, Radish even Pak-Choi.

Regular watering is essential and the occasional feed of liquid tomato fertilizer will also be enjoyed.  Remember, there is nothing like a fresh made salad straight from your outdoor space.