M ANY people do not want or can't have the conventional garden but still want plenty of colour and flowers.

One way to solve the problem is containerised gardening.

This can be as formal or informal as you wish, depending on what type of receptacle you choose.

Most people opt for pots, clay or plastic which looks like clay but anything that has a reasonable growing area in it and can have drainage holes cut can be used, such as an old tea pot or holey pair of boots.

When using containers you can grow just about anything you would in a garden but you have to give them everything they need to thrive.

Good quality multi-purpose compost is the basis for strong and healthy plants.

Some people prefer to use a mix of this with a soil based compost such as John Innes. This saves it from drying out so quickly and gives extra weight.

THERE are also specialist composts such as Ericaceous, for peat loving plants such as azaleas.

Once the plants are growing nicely the most important job is to ensure the compost does not dry out. Watering has to be a regular task, even if it is raining, as the plants cannot take the moisture from the ground like they would if they were planted out.

This is best done first thing in the morning or evening when it is cooler to save scorching the plants. Water retaining gels or crystals are available which, when mixed through the compost when filling the pots, will help to keep the compost moist.

Feeding is also important. There are many makes of fertilisers available, such as MiraclGro', especially for producing vibrant blooms, though the best all-round feeding is tomato food. It has high quantities of potassium which is needed for the production of fruits and flowers. Feeding should be carried out at least once a week.

Dead heading and removing damaged or dead stalks means you will get as long a growing season as possible.

Another benefit of containers is that you can easily move the plants around if you want to change the display.

You can also save plants from dying out in the winter by moving containers to sheltered spots. Next to the house is best, as there is a certain amount of heat around, if you don't have a greenhouse.