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Complete beginner wanting advice

Hi everyone, this is my first post on here. I am a complete beginner to gardening but would love a pretty garden for my 18 month old. When she’s a bit older I would love to grow fruit and veg in some big planters but to start me off I am just looking at getting two tall plant pots to go either end of our patio. I would like some colourful flowers (maybe that attract butterflies?) we literally have no plants or shrubs in our garden at the moment. my mom was a keen gardener and I remember her saying it’s a good idea to drill holes in the bottom of the plant pot for drainage? Or did I get that wrong? Also is it best to buy some bricks at the bottom to weigh it down (to stop it falling on daughter) and also for drainage? Also what soil do i use? Will I have to replace plants every year? Sorry to be so vague. Look forward to reading your replies :) 

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  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 3,913

    Yes to the holes in the bottom.

    Yes to 'crocks' (broken pieces of pottery) or broken bricks or stones or gravel as a drainage layer at the bottom and as you say, stones or broken bricks may help make the pot more stable.

    In your local garden centre you'll find they sell bags of compost with various different purposes. Use either 'multi-purpose' compost, or one specifically for tubs and containers or if you plan to plant shrubs in your pots, a 'tree and shrub' compost.

    Whatever you plant and whichever compost you use, the 'food' in it will only last about 6 weeks. So if you want your plants to keep flowering, you'll need to start feeding them every two weeks or so after that first 6 weeks.

    You can plant either perennial plants which you wouldn't have to replace every year. One option could be to get a buddleia 'buzz' - which is a dwarf buddleia shrub. The butterflies loves those.

    Annuals will flower and then die in one year so you would need to get new ones next year but they are much cheaper and you can have some that flower early in summer, like marigolds, verbena, poppies or aquilegia. Then take them out and replace them with some others to flower in the late summer and autumn, like cosmos and rudbeckia.

    Simple shaped flowers are usually best for butterflies 

    Last edited: 27 February 2018 15:11:13

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  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 22,233

    Good advice above but a lot depends on where you are and how exposed/hot/cold/dry/wet/windy your garden is and also the size and shape of your container and its material. 

    Small containers heat up/freeze/dry out faster than large ones.  Glazed ceramic pots are heavier so need less weighting but are also expensive.  Square containers are more stable than round.   Then there's zinc, terracotta (very porous and usually not frost proof), plastic made to look like terracotta, coloured plastic, concrete............... 

    Tell us more. 

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 22,233

    I suggest you start with some reading.  This will start you off and then you can read more if you need to - https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/beginners-guide/plant-containers 

    If you decide to try something not too ordinary, have a look at books on container gardening.  Libraries will have them and some charity shops too.

    Later on, when the weather warms up enough, get your child to help you sow some sunflower seeds in small pots.  You can get dwarf, multi-headed and the usual tall ones these days.  The seeds are easy for a child to handle and the growth will be fast once it's germinated if you give it good compost and regular feeding and watering.  Then you can plant up a bigger pot with them later on when they're big enough and let your child help with watering.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Hi there

    I would say have a go at growing annuals. They're cheap, cheerful and often very colourful. I sowed some last year in pots and the bees went mad for them .It's a bit difficult to imagine it ever being warm enough in the current arctic conditions :-) but once things do warm up, annual seeds will germinate really quickly. The advice above is all good - the bigger the pot, obviously the more you can grow. It's very cheap to grow annuals from seed and there is a lot of choice.

    There are packets of mixed annual seeds readily available - some helpfully labelled "butterfly mix" or "bee mix". Follow the instructions on the packets, make sure the pots don't dry out and place them in the sun. Provided you are not writing from the North Pole, you should see the seedlings after a week or two and as long as you keep watering them and there is some food in the compost to keep them going they should last a few months. You can buy granules to mix into the compost very cheaply in discount stores, or use tomato feed.

    Once you  have flowers, keep deadheading (taking off faded flowers) to keep them going as long as possible, but eventually you will have to accept that they are done for and replace them with something else and there are sure to be lots of bedding plants to choose from.

    You could even try growing edibles - nasturtiums and cut-and-come-again salads would be nice, or tomatoes as long as you have plenty of sun. You can buy young tomato plants to get you started. 

    Warning! You will have to protect your plants from greedy slugs who will regard them as a tasty buffet! When you buy your pots, see if you can buy some copper tape and put this round the pots. I find it very effective. Failing that, Vaseline does a good job too. And it might be worth putting some twigs over the soil initially to stop squirrels digging it up.

    Happy growing!

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