Potting that Lasts: Simple Tips for Potting Plants
Potting plants and herbs is a terrific way to garden that doesn’t depend on the yard that surrounds your home. So here are some tips for how to make your gardening and planting successful.
We love the way planted pots look when they adorn front yards, covered decks, and driveways. The versatility of what can be potted, and the sheer number of pots available, makes potting an obvious choice for many people looking to spruce up their yards and homes. So here are some simple tips to help keep your potting effort sustainable and beautiful for as long as possible.
Pot Before Plant
Even if you know what you want to grow before you ever get started with your gardening and planting, finding the right vessels for planting is paramount. There are options to consider, colors and glazes to select from, and shapes and sizes galore! If you’re reading this, and you aren’t a PNW resident, pot selections will vary and it may be harder to find the right pot than you think. And people will see your pots during every stage of your plant’s life, so choosing the right container is important. If you are one of our Western Washington neighbors, your local Tacoma Boys and H&L Produce have thousands of pots to choose from, so we have you covered. But beyond colors, sizes, and shapes, it’s important to know that some pots actually serve certain plants and soils differently. Let’s talk glazing.
Glazed vs. Unglazed
Of course, a lot of what we select in potting vessels has to do with how we want them to look. And that makes so much sense. Many of us buy plants with the colors of their blooms and leaves in mind, so having a similar thought about pots is just fine. But there are some basic details that every pot should have, so here’s a quick list: drainage holes (unless your ceramic pot is holding a plastic liner pot), appropriate size for plant growth, and watering expectations.
That last one is a big key, and it has more to do with the person planting than the pot being used. Do you want plants that require a lot of watering? Do you intend to water daily? Will the pots be in constant sunlight? Is your area heavily shaded? What’s the weather like where you are doing your potting and gardening? And what do these questions have to do with potting? Great question. The answer is in the glaze.
Unglazed pots are very porous, and so they create a significant airflow for the soil you are planting in. However, the same cellular configuration that allows air to flow freely also pulls moisture from the soil, requiring a potentially higher frequency of watering. Glazed pots do almost the exact opposite. The fired glaze fills in the pores in the ceramic pot, restricting airflow but holding in moisture much longer than their unglazed counterparts. So if you prefer the shinier pots, it means you may need to consider your soil much more carefully.
And speaking of soil, we at Tacoma Boys and H&L Produce proudly serve organic soil because we prefer the natural, nutrient-rich product that more readily benefits a wide range of plants and produce, is chemical free, and can be blended with compost to benefit growth and drainage, but does not need to be.
Should you choose to go with a synthetic soil, we do recognize that those products act fast. However, they break down the micronutrients in existing soils and train the plant life to depend on their man-made nutrients. That means that every time you replant, pot up, or move your plants, you must always use the more expensive synthetic soil, and often the same brand. So we recommend natural potting soil because it blends more consistently with existing soils, can take to ground planting more effectively, carries natural benefits, and is more cost effective to you.
While we are on the subject of soils, let’s quickly debunk a common potting drainage myth: placing materials like gravel, sand, rocks, and compost in the bottom of your pots for drainage does not really work. While those products may drain more effectively than an organic soil does, they do not aid in plant growth, general plant drainage, or the health of your plants. Oftentimes, those materials simply move the pooling of water higher up in the pot, creating a more dangerous environment for root growth and stability. If you fear your soil is too dense, mix in some perlite to the soil, and that should keep it light and airy.
Plants Eat, So Feed Them
Plants are living things. And all living things feed, in some way or another. And for the potting gardener, keeping your plants healthy and your soils nutrient-rich is a responsibility that cannot be ignored.
Your plants need sunlight to gain the energy to feed. That’s photosynthesis. And your plants dependency on sunlight is something you should know beforehand. Water is the fuel that keeps photosynthesis churning. The water travels from root to stem to leaves, and evaporates in carbon dioxide. And for plants thriving in the ground, they can pull nutrients from their surrounding areas to create their own food. But that does not apply to potted plants! They are relegated to the space you give them, and the organic soil you plant them in. When they eat the nutrients around them from your potting soil, there is no natural process to replace those nutrients. And that’s where fertilizer comes in.
We suggest nutrient rich fertilizers, and have found that the best application is mixing fertilizer with water, and spraying your plants as often as is necessary. But how do you determine the frequency for fertilization? A huge helping of common sense will aid you, along with the instructions that come on most bags you buy. But remember these simple rules: 1. If your plant is growing, it’s eating. 2. Whenever you or the PNW precipitation are watering, nutrients may be washed away and the plants are eating. 3. If it’s a sunny day, photosynthesis is kicking in even faster. And in all of these cases, feed those plants!
Now It’s Up to You
Potting plants is so rewarding. Potted herb gardens are brilliant in-home ideas for the health-conscious young family and the recipe-minded foodie. Veggie starts are great potting solutions, as you prepare your gardening adventures. And of course, we love flowers!
But it is up to you what you want in your home, on your lawn, or decorating your decks and outdoor areas. We just want you to have the most rewarding potting experience possible. And we hope these few tips have helped set you up for success!
If you have any more questions, contact us or swing by your local Tacoma Boys and H&L Produce today.