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Ferns not doing at all well in metal trough - why?

Hi, I am trying to work out why the ferns in the metal trough shown are doing so badly.  The bracken type one on the left in the trough is much the same age, and used to be almost the same size, as the one in the pot.  This is the third year in the trough, and it and the other fern at the far end have both declined steadily since they went in - unlike all my other ferns which are magnificent.  All are about fifteen years old now.  I don't think it is heat, which I know can be a problem for metal containers, as this is a very shady corner only getting sun first thing in the morning, and I water conscientiously - in fact it got waterlogged last year (weight of soil and water squashing the drainage holes I guess) and we had to make holes along the front to drain it.  Does metal affect pH or something like that? Thanks for any insights!



  • Ladybird4Ladybird4 Posts: 36,822

    Whatever the reason, your ferns do not like the container so I would remove them and put them into other pots.

    Last edited: 06 May 2017 13:21:49

    Cacoethes: An irresistible urge to do something inadvisable
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,399

    Could it be the drainage then?

    Hoik the lot out, make bigger drainage holes and add a layer of stones and gravel with voids for drainage. Replace the existing with new soil-based compost. I would put your ferns somewhere sheltered and unobtrusive to see if they recover and plant new ones or something different.

    Last edited: 06 May 2017 13:22:21

  • Yeah for sure they need moving.  But I'd like to know what's going on, for future reference!  I think if I have to empty that thing it's going in the bin, I'm not going to reuse it.  Time to lay out on a decent stone trough I suppose, or maybe experiment with hypertufa. 

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,399

    Oh, can I buy it off you? How much do you want for it Sarah? :)

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  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,439

    I have a metal trough like yours too.  When I reclaimed it I placed it on bricks to assist drainage, after drilling holes in the bottom.  It also stops it rotting so quickly having it propped up on bricks.  Before I filled mine I lined it with polystyrene in the bottom and insulating floor underlay on the sides to stop it getting too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.  That's just what I did; maybe the drainage in yours isn't so good or extremes of temperature too great. I don't think the metal will affect the ph.

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • Thanks folks.  The drainage does seem the most likely problem - I should have done what Redwing did, but too late now.  WillDB you wouldn't want it, really, it is rusting through the drainage holes, which were not made with any kind of finesse, the base has clearly been squashed flat, and it also buckled a bit with the weight of earth as it was being filled. And shipping would be a nightmare.  It's sold as a plant container, so I expected the drainage holes in the bottom to be up to the job; it should be constructed to stand up to being full of wet soil surely.  I looked at stone troughs that size last night, we're talking at least £250 and another £50 if you want them to carry it into the garden and put it in the right place. The next one might have to be wood.  

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,918

    I did the same as Redwing when I grew plants in my metal troughs, even though we don't have excessive heat. For shade loving plants it's easier as the containers don't heat up too much. Drainage holes have to be substantial though, with a good layer of gravel in the bottom, and some feet or bricks  to keep it off the ground.

    If you have some timber, you can make containers quite easily. Many people use pallets as well image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,889

    I have two big metal pots. I bought them years ago, thinking they'd be good for growing veg but found that most plants don't thrive in them. My guess is it's the summer heat rather than the cold. One big bonus is that slugs don't touch anything in them image. Anyhoo, despite lining them, the bottoms eventually rusted out, so both are now half buried in soil and both are now permanently planted with agapanthus which seem to really like having their roots cooked. 

    Rather than bin it, I'd recommend you recycle it (possibly by cutting the bottom out to improve drainage to the max) as a container for something that likes it really hot.

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
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