Sunday, May 17, 2015

Let's Review: Pots

Terracotta pots are beautiful but require more frequent watering.
I've always said that you can grow almost anything in a pot.  At various times over the years I've grown trees (a Japanese maple that I've had for eight years--maybe longer), shrubs, vegetables, perennials flowers, annuals, and herbs.  The pot you choose has to be large enough to accommodate its contents. For example, my Japanese maple is in a huge container, which is only problematic when I need to move it, or should I say, when my husband needs to move it for me.  

My garden has an array of containers--from terracotta pots (see photo) to wine crates to pots made of lightweight composite materials. You should consider several things including aesthetics, weight, and size. I prefer an eclectic mix of pots, which is why you'll see such a variety in my pictures. It's part aesthetic preference and part experiment.  

Pot feet allow for drainage and air circulation
But if you remember nothing else, remember this: no matter what container you use, you must have good drainage. You accomplish this three ways. First, be sure that your container has holes at the bottom. If it doesn't, don't buy it, or be prepared to drill the holes yourself. Depending on the type of material, you may not want to risk it. At the very least, use an appropriate drill bit. Second, use potting mix not garden soil. Potting mix is formulated to facilitate drainage and allow for root growth. Garden soil is too heavy to use in containers and your roots will suffocate. Finally, elevate your pots. I use pot feet (see photo). On a round pot, you can get by with three; on a square pot, use four.  

The right pot and proper drainage are the foundations of successful container gardening. There are other considerations of course, which I've talked about in the past and will review in future posts.  

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books


Wanda G said...

Is it really necessary to throw out all your soil from the previous season and start with fresh soil each spring? Especially with my large pots - that can be very expensive and because I have a lot of pots.

Miriam said...

Thanks for your question. I do not throw out my old soil. You are quite right; it would be very expensive, particularly if you plant in large pots. So for my containers holding plants that return every year, I often just top them off with a layer of compost and some additional potting soil. Then I'll sprinkle with some Osmocote time-release fertilizer. This has been my approach for years and it seems to be working well. Happy planting! --Miriam

NightVision said...

I have a wooden ikea pot with metallic bottom. Bit confused as to how to use them. Should I put the soil directly in it? I have sprayed the wood with a sealant spray but fearful that the soil and water might rot the wood.

Miriam said...

Night Vision:
Thanks for your comment. So I have a couple of wooden wine crates that I plant in. Before I planted, I drilled holes on the bottom because drainage is essential. I then treated the wood on both inside and outside with a liquid wood protector that I bought at my local big box hardware store. I ended up putting 2 or 3 coats on. Then I just put the soil and the plant directly in and watered as I usually would throughout the growing season. At the end of the season, you'll want to clean out the planter and treat it again with the protectant. I'm going on about three years with my wine crates. I might get another year out of them. I hope that helps you. --Miriam