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Pot luck: how to protect your garden pots from breaking

PUBLISHED: 14:00 19 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:37 20 March 2017

The Nature collection, available from Cadix

The Nature collection, available from Cadix

Archant

You needn’t go potty over broken pots. Instead, give your terracotta a little TLC

The Cubeto bowl planter, available from lechuza.co.ukThe Cubeto bowl planter, available from lechuza.co.uk

Every year there are a number of casualties among people’s terracotta pots, which end up broken or cracked in the depths of winter.

Replacing them can be an almost impossible decision, thanks to the plethora of garden pots available both from retailers and online, from huge Grecian-style glazed urns, to light resin contemporary planters.

If you’re going to invest in new pots, make sure they match the outside of your property and the style of your garden. If you live in a centuries-old cottage featuring original brickwork, for example, you may want to steer clear of contemporary urban planters.

While some manufacturers claim their terracotta pots are frostproof or frost resistant, I would advise you take care of them anyway to minimise risk of flaking and cracking.

Spinach growing in a gardenSpinach growing in a garden

Glazed terracotta pots are generally more frostproof than unglazed ones, but if compost in the pot becomes waterlogged and then the water freezes, it will expand and crack the pot as well as killing the roots of your plants.

Move terracotta pots near to the house during the winter months or wrap them in bubble wrap or horticultural fleece to protect them - and make sure you have adequate drainage holes and drainage material in the pot, standing the pot on feet.

BEST OF THE BUNCH - Elaeagnus

This tough, fast-growing evergreen is ideal for growing as hedging, with its resistance to coastal winds and tolerance of the elements. Leaves may be plain green or silvery, or there are types with silver or gold variegation that look great in full sun. Small clusters of bell-shaped fragrant flowers are borne in summer or autumn, occasionally followed by small berries. Grow them in fertile, well-drained soil, preferably in full sun. Deciduous types are also available. Good bets include E. ‘Quicksilver’, a deciduous, clump-forming shrub which grows to 4m, flowering in summer, and E. x ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’, a dense evergreen with green and yellow variegated leaves and creamy white flowers in autumn. Prune deciduous types in late winter or early spring and evergreens in mid-to-late spring.

GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT - Growing spinach

You can now be sowing true spinach - the annual, green leafy plant as opposed to perpetual spinach or leaf beet, a biennial which can be sown later next month - in short rows once every three weeks to give you a succession of crops throughout the summer. They key is to pick it when the leaves are small, before it starts to bolt. Prepare the seedbed well, raking in balanced fertiliser and water if the soil is dry and sown thinly into drills 1cm deep and 30cm apart. The first few sowings should be protected with cloches. Through March and April, continue to sow small amounts of true spinach at intervals. Thin the seedlings to around 10-15cm apart and use the thinnings in salads. Good varieties include ‘Giant winter’, which will overwinter from an autumn sowing, and ‘Mikado’ and ‘Amazon Seed’.

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