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A Quick Potting Tip

By wildflowers
June 25, 2012

When potting plants, put some fallen leaves in the bottom half of the pot and then add potting soil. The leaves will keep the water draining and hold the soil in. Over time the leaves will compost, which really makes the plants happy. It works especially well with big pots, cutting down on your potting soil expense!

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Name: Mary
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fiwit
Jun 24, 2012 6:27 PM CST
Keep the water draining, or keep it from draining? I don't really understand that sentence, other than the bit about holding the soil in (but I'm hot/tired/sweaty/brain-dead, so it might just be me).

LOVE the tip, though - not sure I've thought of that one
Thanks!
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Name: Christine
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wildflowers
Jun 24, 2012 6:46 PM CST
Thank you for asking, Mary. If you're wondering-someone else probably is too!

The leaves help the water drain better; just like when you add rocks or other bulky material to the bottom of your pot for draining, the leaves do the job.
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
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fiwit
Jun 24, 2012 7:14 PM CST
Thanks Christine! So how many leaves do you add? I was picturing just 3-4, and it sounds like you mean more than that?
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Christine
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wildflowers
Jun 24, 2012 7:28 PM CST
I wish I took some pics of when I was adding the leaves to the pots.

Yes, I mean a big pile of them, enough to fill the bottgom half of the pot. How many leaves will depend on the size of the pot. Then I add a layer of potting soil to cover the leaves. Once the leaves are covered completely with potting soil, add your plant and fill will soil around plant to desired level.
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
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fiwit
Jun 24, 2012 7:34 PM CST
Thanks!
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Jun 24, 2012 7:42 PM CST
I would say all of my plants that I have potted this way, really love it!

One thing that I did learn is to fill the pots pretty high to the top because once the leaves break down, they will shrink some.
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

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KyWoods
Jun 24, 2012 8:13 PM CST
This is a perfect tip for me, since I live in the middle of over 25 acres of woods, with an endless supply of leaves. Hurray! Thanks!
Name: Marilyn
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Marilyn
Jun 24, 2012 10:06 PM CST
Great tip Christine! Hurray! I agree nodding Thumbs up

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Name: Mary
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MaryE
Jun 24, 2012 10:27 PM CST
Bag up some of those leaves this fall to have on hand any time you need them.
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rocklady
Jun 25, 2012 1:35 PM CST
Great tip, Christine. I have been doing this like you say with big pots, because that's a lot of potting soil that you have to use to fill up one of those. We have a huge pile of leaves that I use for that purpose. Sometimes as a bonus when I dig into the leaf pile, I find earthworms. They go into the pot, too!
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Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
Jun 25, 2012 1:55 PM CST
I put plastic milk jugs in my big pots -- read that online somewhere a couple years back. LOVE the thought of leaves, though, and will be doing that in future.
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Jun 25, 2012 4:20 PM CST
Good idea, Mary!

Neat, Jean! I find worms in the leaf piles sometimes too, little red ones. Thumbs up

I used to put styrofoam chunks in the bottom of the large pots. I don't remember where that idea came from! Probably because it's not real heavy... but it's a real pain to have to sift thru that stuff later. I only use leaves and leaf matter now.
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

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Samigal
Jun 25, 2012 5:34 PM CST
Thanks for that tip, just found myself a pretty ceramic pot at the thrift store and I would love to find something to put in the bottom half to help with the expense of soil. (by the way DH drilled some holes in ceramic pots for me with wonderful results so that is what I'll do with this new pot). I'll be saving the leaves from my orange tree now for that purpose. Good tips come from this site!! Hurray!
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RickCorey
Sep 22, 2014 6:29 PM CST
>> I would love to find something to put in the bottom half to help with the expense of soil.

Bark nuggets are MUCH cheaper than potting soil. They will provide excellent aeration and drainage. If the only nuggets you find are larger than 1/4" to 1/2", you might want to use bark shreds as well, to "fill in the cracks", so potting soil doesn't sift into the bark layer.

You can make bark shreds by screening CLEAN bark mulch, or by breaking up bark nuggets (they are usually cleaner than "mulch") and then screening them. A chipper/shredder or lawn mower will shred bark much more easily than it breaks up twigs.

If you go a little farther, and use lots of bark shreds and bark powder, the bark layer will become almost as dense as the potting soil, and you'll lose some of the great drainage and aeration.

However, you will also have created a very inexpensive potting-soil-substitute. You might consider mixing screened bark (especially pine, fir or balsam bark) with your current potting soil to reduce its cost and improve its aeration and drainage. It's easy to find bark coarser than coarse Perlite, and it is cheaper than Perlite. It will not be "sterile" as Perlite and very good potting mixes are, unless you are rich enough to buy "orchid bark".

If you improve the drainage of potting soil a lot, you probably will also reduce its water-holding capacity. That might mean more frequent watering, but it might also mean eliminating root rot due to water-logging.
Name: Pegi Putnam
Norwalk, Ca. zone 10b
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Samigal
Oct 2, 2014 2:41 PM CST
How about using pine needles? I have a yard full of them, but don't know if adding to soil or putting in bottom of pots would be good. Pine trees in small mall behind our house never stop dropping them and I'm really hating pine trees. They should remain in the forest.
Name: Christine
North East Texas (Zone 7b)
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wildflowers
Oct 2, 2014 2:47 PM CST
Pine needles have lots of acid. You probably noticed that not much grows under a pine tree. I wouldn't use them.
May your life be like a wildflower, growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day --Native American Proverb

Name: Pegi Putnam
Norwalk, Ca. zone 10b
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Samigal
Oct 5, 2014 2:25 PM CST
I'll just rake up the pine needles for the green waste barrel. I wish it was a tree with leaves now. I don't have but a couple trees in my yard so I'll start saving the leaves. I need to report a few of my plants, and want to try leaves now. Great idea!!

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