Saturday, June 20, 2009

Getting Around To Re-Potting

Takes me forever. Re-potting is my least favorite gardening chore, probably because I have nowhere to do it that I don't end up either kneeling or bending over at a 45-degree angle.

I really need a potting bench.

At any rate - after finding all these clearance plants, it is inevitable that they will need to be re-potted. If you (or I) don't get it done in time, the plants become rootbound, and begin to strangle themselves.

It's not a pretty sight.

This is a partial look at my tray of victims - by the time I remembered the camera, I had already re-potted the geraniums and planted the memorial pink astilbe out with Miss Millie next to the butterfly bush.

First things first: size up the plants, and try to visualize them as grownups. If you know your root systems well-enough, you can use shallow containers for those plants that don't need a lot of room (for example cucumbers will work really well in hanging baskets). If you're not sure, give them lots of room. No plant dies because it has too much expansion space.

(Also, when you bring plants home from the greenhouse, save the pots - if you run out to buy a special pot for every plant, it will cost you a fortune, not to mention this is recycling at its best -plastic pots last forever - they may as well spend part of eternity working in your garden).

This was not meant to be a commercial for Miracle Gro, but I guess it will be, because this is all I use for container gardening. I've used Miracle Gro for years -it works, I like it - other people use other blends (my dad, for instance - he's convinced a local greenhouse to blend his special potting soil according to his secret recipe). I just buy the giant Miracle Gro bags at Lowe's. I also rarely fertilize after planting - it's already in the soil. I hate working with liquid or powder chemicals, so this is a great solution for me.

Gather your high-tech tools. I found this trowel a couple years ago at a yard sale, and the old silver spoon is wonderful for gently digging around fragile roots. No idea what pattern it is - it's probably some valuable antique that should be on Antique Roadshow.

I use a old small plastic pot to scoop out the dirt and fill the pot - what you missed just before this is the drainage materials. The plants need drainage space at the bottom, something to hold their roots up out of the wet dirt - so I usually add a few smallish rocks in the bottom, or if you have enough extra small plastic seedling pots (like the black one above), you can turn one upside down, and set it in the bottom of the larger pot, then fill with dirt. (Again, plastic lasts forever. It may as well do something useful with its time). I've also used small chunks of old brick, used aquarium gravel and styrofoam packing peanuts (not the recyclable kind that dissolve). Never use old concrete - it leaches chemicals into your soil (which means it will either poison your flowers, or you, if it's in a vegetable pot).

Wouldn't you like to be a pepper too? This one should have plenty of room to grow now. Green pepper have a dense root system, but it rarely extends much more than 6-7". This dark-colored pot offers plenty of room, plus the sun will keep the soil warm - peppers love having their feet toasty. (FYI - one way to "push" your peppers along in the spring is to plant your rows, then lay down black plastic as mulch (or black weed fabric) - it will keep the soil warm and the peppers will grow by leaps and bounds).

A good way to judge size of plant vs. size of pot: plant should be at least a third smaller than the pot (and you can always go larger with the pot size).

Here's the happy geraniums. These are the scrawny clearance plants I bought last weekend at Lowe's - 50 cents each, and then I grouped 5 into each large pot.

We'll check back on them in a couple weeks.

Remember the clean-up, wash off the tools, and voila, we're done.

But I still want that potting bench.


  1. It's one of those dreary tasks that must be done. I've finished with repotting now as everything has been planted out.


  2. Great idea with those clearance plants...the geraniums looks great.

  3. Dear Damsel -

    Other readers- go check it out!