When I planted these strawberry guavas, I knew a couple of things. Firstly, I had a house for sale and I wasn’t sure whether the new owners would be as enthusiastic about my little Chilean beauties as I was. Second, I knew they’d take a few years to produce fruit hence the combination of those factors lead me to get them in some decent pots until they found a permanent garden in the future. I’ve picked some classic terracotta pots for these as they’re less fickle than high fashion glazed pots. One thing I’d wish I’d done was to purchase pots with an internal coating to help maintain the moisture. The neighbouring geraniums are in pots with such a coating and I really notice the way they hold onto their moisture much better.
Pots are also great because you can move them during the year to follow the shade or the sun or the rain depending on what they need. Citrus and olives love the sun, so they’ll love being backed onto a north facing wall which may have other plants gasping in protest. Upcoming heatwave? Well pots allow you to move everything into the shade for a few days meaning you don’t risk losing them. Of course they can be quite heavy so only attempt this will the right tools e.g. a sturdy trolley and someone that can manage it (especially during heat waves!)
Knowing when to water
The great thing about containers is the ability for you to control the growing medium. Generally potting mixes are a safe bet – you’ll notice they’re made up of larger ingredients such as pine bark which make bigger gaps meaning better drainage. Of course the flip side of this great drainage is that you have to water more often. I like to include compost in the mix to ensure there’s lots of organic matter in the mix, and this also helps to hold the water better.
In a normal garden bed I usually stick my finger into the soil up to the second knuckle and by seeing if the soil sticks to my skin I can tell the soil moisture. Pots can be a little tricky so I’ve found the best way is to tip the pot ever so slightly to see how heavy it is. The more moisture the harder the pot is to move. It’s amazing how light a full pot can be if the soil has started to dry out and indicates they need to be watered more frequently.
Want an example of how not to container garden? Well I purchased a couple of these recycled half wine barrels a while back and planted up a valencia orange and tamarillo. All good I hear you say, but unfortunately I forgot to check the drainage holes in the bottom of the tamarillo’s barrel and wondered why it was looking pretty average a few months later, especially when compared with the lush orange. The soil mix was fertile and revealed a stack of worms as I pulled it aside to check what was going on. As I dug down I noticed water starting to pool…hmmm. Yes, I was drowning my poor tree!
Remember containers need drainage holes!
The excellent drainage of pots also means the fertility will flush quickly through the soil. I combat this by adding a good sticky compost which will hang onto the moisture and therefore the nutrition. I also tend to ‘top dress’ the potting mix with organic fertiliser such as pelletised manure (dynamic lifter) or blood and bone. Plus of course worm juice!
If you’re interested in learning more I’ll be giving a free “Growing Veggies in Boxes” workshop on Thursday May 10 from 1pm at the Cloverdale Community Centre, 167-169 Purnell Rd Corio.