Monday, October 9, 2017

The trouble with pots

The trouble I have with pots is that I wax and wane in my use of them. My garden seems to go through cycles ranging from "sorry, we need minimal pots" to "more pots please" ... and right now, I'm swinging back to using more pots.

I have only made this situation worse because last weekend I tidied up my spare pots area, for the simple reason that this unsightly spot used to be hidden from view. Alas, recent garden renovations have removed the dense screen of ginger plants that concealed the pots, and so now my pots area is neatly sorted into sizes and types. 

That's where the troubled brewed up. For example, as I stacked the wide, shallow dish-shaped pots, I thought to myself that they really could contain all the mixed leafy salad greens that two little people could need. Removing the greens from the vegie beds into the pots would then provide more space for my preference — other vegies — or Pammy's preference — more flowers.

The trouble with that idea is that I bought that same wide, shallow pot several years ago precisely to grow more salad greens. I did it successfully for a few years, but it was a lot more work than simply plonking the salad green seedlings or seeds into a garden bed.

And that's the trouble with pots. They seem like a gardener's best friend, a real problem-solver ... but then a few months later you realise that they are more work. They need more watering, more feeding and every second year or so, complete repotting.

Has this deterred me from entering a new cycle of "more pots please"? No, afraid not. 

And no, it's not a tragic cycle. You see, I have more time on my hands now that I am winding down into a semi-retired pattern of work. Several years ago I was much busier, and staying on top of the workload of keeping potted plants happy was more of a chore.

Despite the fact that I seem to be a remarkably slow learner at times, as I am now entering a positive "you can do it" phase with pots, here are several perfectly good reasons to grow plants in pots.

Limit the size of spreading plants. In this case, it's a pot containing all the oregano we will ever need. In a garden bed, oregano can spread a metre or more if it's happy. Here in the pot it has to be content with 30cm. All I need to do is cut it back every three months. Another truly rotten spreader is mint, which you should never grow in the ground if you have limited space. 

Keep fruit trees down to a manageable size. Our potted Turkish Brown fig tree is content in its pot, and so is its close neighbour, a potted Thai lime tree. In the ground, both would grow much bigger, and our garden already has an olive, a Tahitian lime and a Eureka lemon in the ground, so there is no more room.

Put kitchen garden herbs within easy reach. You can almost smell this fragrant forest of young basil, and as well as using leaves for staples such as tomato sauces or pesto, just a few torn leaves tossed into a garden salad works wonders. Other nearby pots contain mint, tarragon, chives, thyme, rosemary and sage.

Grow specialised plants in potting mixes designed for them. Our garden has all sorts of interesting plants, such as this colourful succulent, Crassula 'Campfire', planted into pots containing potting mixes designed to suit them. As well as succulents, there are bromeliads, orchids and water-loving Louisiana iris. Each requires its own special mix, but if you give plants the exact conditions they love to grow in, they tend to be much happier and easier to look after.  

And so all I really have to offer with this posting is that pots are an essential part of any garden. Their downside is that they are more work, but their upside is that they can solve all sorts of problems, and even allow you to grow a much wider variety of plants than if you just tried to grow everything in the ground. And for a plant-lover like me, that final point seals the deal.

I'll be growing plants in pots for all my days here. It's just that every now and then I'll scale back on them for a while, then I'll bounce back a year or two later filled with fresh enthusiasm for them. 

This waxing and waning, of de-potting then re-potting, is just another of life's and gardening's steady little cycles.


Shivangni said...

You articulate for most gardeners, at least for me. We have shifted to another city(Chandigarh) and while moving I cut number of pots to half, but within 2 months I've gone and bought more, all the way from Pune.

Incidentally I too bought hydrangeas, (don't know what colour) and much smaller size than yours, but am happy I could get my hands on them. Hope the winter here is kind to them.

Also crasulla are THE plants in fashion here now. They are considered lucky and a garden center fellow told me to keep the pot on right side of the gate to retain grace of Goddess of wealth (Lakshmi). its a very small cutting, very plane green one and almost died on the way. Keeping my fingers crossed.

others that I got are begonias, geraniums, african violets and a spathyphylum. Forgive the bad spellings.

will send pictures of the ones which recover and do well

Keep writing and keep inspiring

MDN said...

Jaime, I discovered your blog today and I love all what you share in it, I live in Argentina and have a blog about my garden, I'm glad I found your site because there are not many gardening blogs from the southern hemisphere and also because we both garden in similar climate zones, I will visit your blog often!

Jamie said...

Thanks for your comments, Shivangni and MDN.

And MDN, I will make sure to visit your Buenos Aires blog. I have always been a big fan of Astor Piazzola's music so I like all things Argentinian!