Containers forum: Do you plant right into the pot?

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Name: Joe
Virginia (Zone 7b)
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Zorki
Feb 21, 2014 3:23 PM CST
Just curious what other people do. I have this pot I bought for my snake plant. For now, I've just set the pot it came in inside this one. There are no holes in the bottom, so no water tray (the word for them escapes me right now *Blush* ).

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Name: Bev
Salem OR (Zone 8a)
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webesemps
Feb 21, 2014 5:39 PM CST
Good pot for setting the plastic pot w/plant in it and emptying out the water occasionally by removing plant and tipping the pot. But if want to put plant and soil directly into the pot, I would have a hole drilled and place a water tray under the pot.
Name: Holly
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HollyAnnS
Feb 21, 2014 11:36 PM CST
Most of my plants are directly planted in the decorative pots but I do have several that are in nursery pots set inside a more decorative pot. Depending on how tight a fit you can add a layer of stone, packing peanuts or some other filler to the bottom of the pot to keep the nursery pot up and out of the excess water that will accumulate in the bottom of the decorative pot. Depending on the fullness of the plant you can add a layer of mulch, decorative stone or moss on top of the potting soil to help disguise the nursery pot and give it a more finished appearance.
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Name: Jo Ann Gentle
Pittsford NY (Zone 6a)
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ge1836
Feb 22, 2014 4:00 AM CST
Any pot that stays inside for winter,gets the nursery pot in it .
Garden Planters that are liable to split open in our winters,get filled with dirt and planted with annuals.In fall I tip pots on their sides so they dont retain moisture.
This sounds like a good topic.Thanks Zorki
Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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CarolineScott
Feb 22, 2014 6:43 AM CST
I do both also.
Name: Julie
La Crescenta, CA (Zone 10a)
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JulieB
Feb 22, 2014 9:47 AM CST
My limited experience tells me that drainage is the key and so I'm a big proponent of drainage holes and pot feet! Most pottery stores & nurseries will drill a hole in a pot if you like and ask -- and I do!


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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Feb 22, 2014 10:53 AM CST
Julie, love your pot head!

Snake plant in particular will absolutely not stay alive if you put too much water in a pot w/o a hole in the bottom. The roots will rot.

No plant that I ever put in a pot w/o a hole is still alive. It's the only rule I have for a container, it must have a hole for excess water to escape. There are folks who can do it, but I like to water plants, and will definitely drown one, with good intentions of course. Until I finally understood that plants need air and moisture around the roots at the same time, I 'overwatered' a lot of plants, a lot. Changing to a more chunky type of soil, not using pots w/o holes, and not watering plants in place that are sitting on drip trays/saucers has made a huge difference. Ever so rarely does a plant die here, the usual cause lately is when I accidentally leave pots where our dog can pee on them. (His garden ideas are way out there, though he does try to contribute! LOL!)

There's also water chemicals which can accumulate to toxic levels, and alter soil PH, to consider if not using rain water. Ground water tends to have lime, iron, all kind of stuff in it. Tap has chemicals like the chlor-s, fluoride, which can make many plants ill.

It's also hard to remove pots from decorative containers usually, when the time comes. The shape of yours is one I think a plant would get stuck in, getting slightly smaller near the top.

๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
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โ˜•๐Ÿ‘“ The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Joe
Virginia (Zone 7b)
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Zorki
Feb 22, 2014 11:03 AM CST
I was planning to do a nursery pot for the snake plant, but was curious for when I do other plants that like lots of water.

The inside shape is not like the outside, it is just smooth on the inside.

Thanks for all the info! :)
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Mar 18, 2014 3:00 PM CST
Tiffany,

I can't stop over-watering either. But I think that is a GOOD thing, once we make our mix drain well enough to let the water OUT of the air channels so that air can diffuse back IN. I like screened bark nuggets, and I screen them myself, either from "small bark nuigget" bags. or "medium bark mulch", if I can find an unusually clean and dry "mulch" product.

>> There's also water chemicals which can accumulate to toxic levels, and alter soil PH,

My theory is that fertilizer will also accumulate unless you flush water all the way through the pot and out the bottom. If you have pH paper or a meter, you can add just a little hydrated lime to a few gallons of water, until it is just slightly basic, like pH 7.5 or 7.8. If you water with that once in a while, you can counter a tendency to get progressively more acid.

One thing thqat will encourage a shallow pot to drain out All the way, even removing perched water from the bottom inch of a fine mix, is to set the pot on a fuzzy water-absorbent mat like a towel, folded Tee short, cotton flannel, or maybe a water-absorbent felt (acrylic?).

If the towel touches the soil through the hole, water will flow from the soil to the mat until the mat is as water-logged as the soil in the bottom of the pot. That's why you should let the towel or flannel hang down below the pot, so that water will flow from pot to towel to low point of towel, and then drip off or evaporate.

http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/646/Bottom-Watering-S...

Having a saucer under a pot is the very reverse of this. Watering carries excess, nasty salts down into the saucer where they become even more concentrated through evaporation before the plants suck them back into the soil. I feel so sorry for the roots in the bottom of a pot sitting in a saucer!

I wouldn't want to drink that stuff after it perked through the soil 5-10 times!

Like forever adding more water to a fishbowl, but never changing the water.


Disclaimer:

My only experience with potted plants comes from a few years of fooling around indoors, decades ago. More recently, tiny cells in seedling trays and Dixie cups.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Mar 18, 2014 3:48 PM CST
That's an awesome addition, Rick! That's why my plants are so much happier now, I can water thoroughly without 'overwatering' anything (which is really suffocation, lack of oxygen. Few plants actually enjoy/appreciate drying out, but with many "potting soils" drying is necessary so roots don't rot.) Well said!! I thumbed your idea at the link. I've never tried any of the methods I've seen, but those who do swear by wicking. I'm always impressed by the ways people do it. One of these days the novelty of carrying plants in/out seasonally, then outside or to a sink to get a drink while inside, will wear off...

Hope things are going well, Joe!
๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
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โ˜•๐Ÿ‘“ The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Mar 18, 2014 8:13 PM CST
>> 'overwatering' anything (which is really suffocation, lack of oxygen. Few plants actually enjoy/appreciate drying out, but with many "potting soils" drying is necessary so roots don't rot.)

I wish I had read that 3-4 years ago! And thank you for enjoying the "bottom-watering mat" article. Lots of companies sell widgets that support seedling trays up above a watering tray, and the wicking mat pulls up just enough water to keep everything happy.

But I wouldn't be happy just BUYing something that someone else made, even if it let me go away for a week with seedlings growing.

First I had to try bottom-watering in my bathtub. Not only did it not work well, I plugged up the drain halfway to the sewer and had to pay a plumber to unclog it before I could shower, flush, or use a sink.

Thumbs down Angry

Then I tried bottom-watering right in a tray with shallow flooding, then removing water with a turkey baster. Not only does that require hours of patient basting to remove the water, it assures flooding and perched water of the bottom inch or so. Drowned roots, BZZZZT.

Thumbs down Angry Angry Thumbs down

I'm still looking for some thrift shop thingy that would provide a flat but draining, elevated but stable way to hold a tray up a few inches above my 1020 tray. Whatever!

Somehow something suppressed my Rube Goldberg gene for long enough to drop a cotton flannel pad in a tray, put the seedling tray on top of the 1020 tray, and add about a half-cup of water.

The grooves in the 1020 tray were like some genius had engineered them to be a micro-reservoir, and simplicity won the day. Despite my gadgety inclinations.

What was really cool about it was serendipitous. The flannel not only carries water TO each cell uniformly. It also draws water back OUT of a cell if you over-water it from the top (which I just HAVE to do periodically, as if it were some Gardener's Curse that I can't escape). But now it draws the excess water OUT, even including perched water, as long as I keep the water level in the tray below the top of the fuzzy mat. Translation: I water until the mat is pretty damp, but I don't see any water.

Then, double-serendipitously, I tried over-watering only SOME of the rows in my tray. The mat pulled the excess water out of those rows, and shared it with the thirsty rows!

The mat insists on being uniformly damp or dry everywhere, which makes the bottom layer of each cell uniformly damp. The third serendipitous thing is that I don't have to guess whether the deeper parts of each cell are dry or moist. The bottom layer of each cell is about as wet as the mat! So I don't need to worry about keeping the soil from drying all the way out. I only need to keep the mat from drying all the way out!

I can't take credit for figuring most of that out. Some brain-fluke just made me try dropping a pad between the water tray and the seedling tray, then watering lightly instead of flooding it. So easy that even I could do it. And maybe a spouse or neighbor could follow directions if you were away for a week.

It just turned out to solve multiple problems all at once.

Hurray! Thumbs up Hurray! Confused Hurray!
[Last edited by RickCorey - Mar 20, 2014 12:54 PM (+)]
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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Mar 21, 2014 7:41 AM CST
Rick, I totally enjoyed reading that, and cracked up a couple times. Interesting and well written, thanks for sharing! Gardening should be fun - and funny!
๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
๐Ÿ€๐Ÿ‘’โ˜€๐Ÿ„๐Ÿ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒฟ๐ŸŒด๐ŸŽ„๐Ÿ‘ฃ๐ŸŒต๐ŸŒทโš˜๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒป๐ŸŒฝ๐Ÿก๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ‚๐ŸŒพ๐ŸŒฟ๐Ÿโฆโง ๐Ÿƒ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‚๐ŸŒพ๐ŸŒป๐ŸŒบ๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒผ๐ŸŒน๐ŸŒณ๐ŸŒฒ
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Name: Ric Sanders
Dover, Pa. (Zone 6b)
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Eric4home
Mar 21, 2014 8:55 AM CST
Really liked that idea Rick, and will be trying it soon. We are going away for 2 weeks shortly after we get our plug trays and a somewhat experienced friend will be watering for us. If we can make it more fool-proof, all the better. Thumbs up
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Mar 21, 2014 12:57 PM CST
Thanks very much for the kind words!

If you have a turkey baster handy, I think it is totally fool-proof.
Hey, it works for me, after killing whole TRAYS of seeds!

You might even be able to gauge what an "average" watering would be, from experience, if a mat got all-the-way-dry. Probably around 4-6 ounces of water. I hardly ever let my mats get all the way dry - I'm an eager-waterer.

(Making my mix coarser and more open helped prevent over-watering too, but then you have to water frequently if there is no bottom-watering "reservoir".)

What I like best is that you can just look at the mat and know how dry the soil is at the bottoms of the cells or plugs.

No - that's wrong. What I like best is not having to call the plumber every time I bottom-water!

There are some photos here:
http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/646/Bottom-W...

P.S. This link is where I ramble on at length about adding screened pine bark mini-nuggets or "grit" to potting mix. ALL the ideas in there (I think) came from Al / Tapla. He's the man!
http://garden.org/ideas/view/RickCorey/652/Adding-S...

P.P.S
I don't know if it is necessary, but I always put some cut-up strips of flannel into a few of the grooves or channels in the bottom 1020 tray. I want to make sure that the water in the grooves has plenty of capillary contact with the mat, even if the mat doesn't sag into them and its fuzzy surface isn't fuzzy enough to reach the bottoms of all the grooves.

P.P.P.S
I bet a used cotton towel from Goodwill would work even better than cotton flannel. It would be thicker, and hence touch the soil more firmly and reach down into the grooves more consistently. And hold more water as a reservoir.

Touching the soil through a hole in the bottom of each cell IS necessary. If the cells only have narrow slits, you would have to test the contact to be sure you're watering EVERY cell, and/or keep the mat quite soggy some of the time, instead of just damp most of the time.

P.P.P.P.S
If you have left-over odd-size pieces of flannel or toweling, the mat doesn't have to be all-one-piece. The pieces do need to overlap so they share the water evenly. I think that a strip of fabric from a Tee shirt would be plenty to "bridge" the pieces together.

P.P.P.P.P.S
Someone told me that acrylic felt might also work, but I haven't tested that yet. If it does work, I'm going to get a hank of really thick acrylic yarn and use that in the grooves, and maybe in EarthBoxes / EarthBottles. One of these years!
[Last edited by RickCorey - Mar 26, 2014 12:32 PM (+)]
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Name: Elfrieda
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orchidgal
Apr 9, 2014 8:32 PM CST
I do a lot of container gardening -- a lot. I use lots of big pots and group them, raise them up, create interesting areas and so on. You must have a drainage hole in the pot (I get my husband to drill them for me.). I use a piece of landscape cloth over the hole to prevent bugs crawling up inside the pot. If the pot is very large and heavy, put it where you want it first. You don't have to fill the whole container up with potting soil. I use up some of the space with small empty water bottles or soda cans, which friends save for me. I don't like the styrofoam peanuts, because if you ever need to replant, those blighters fly everywhere. Also, a lot of the packing peanuts are now made with a corn base and will just melt when water is added. For ornamental gardening in containers, remember the "thriller, filler and spiller" concept.
โ€œI was just sittinโ€™ here enjoyinโ€™ the company. Plants got a lot to say, if you take the time to listenโ€
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Name: David Reaves
Austin, TX (Zone 8b)
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david_reaves
Apr 16, 2014 8:33 PM CST
Rick,

I've been thinking about how to add some sort of reservoir to the 1020 tray to make the pots self-watering. My current thought is to use a "sham-wow" which really absorbs water, draped over both ends of a 1" thick block of styrofoam sized to fit the tray. The plastic pots and soil would float on top, water would wick up the ends, and as water was absorbed the styrofoam would drop. Still a thought experiment at the moment, but don't see why it wouldn't work.

David
Name: Danita
GA (Zone 7b)
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Danita
Apr 17, 2014 3:42 PM CST
Rick & David,

I have some perma-nest trays that have the humidity grids that can also be used to create a reservoir when using capillary matting. These: http://growerssolution.com/PROD/humidity-grids-for-permanest...

I can't swear to it but I am almost certain that they are just eggcrate light diffusers that have been cut to size. Like this:
http://www.homedepot.com/p/Lithonia-Lighting-White-Eggcrate-...

From one panel of light diffuser you should be able to make 4 grid inserts for a 1020 tray. You could stack more than one for a deeper reservoir. Unlike a block of solid material, the grid not only provides a stable surface for the pots but also allows more area for water to be stored and, therefore, increases the volume of your reservoir.

I'm sure you could also find some small items to use as spacers under the light diffuser grid if you didn't want to use multiple grids in one tray to increase the reservoir. Perhaps cutting evenly sized rings from a shampoo bottle or similar would work for spacers on the cheap. A food/water safe type of plastic pipe cut in even rings might also work.
[Last edited by Danita - Apr 17, 2014 4:20 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Apr 17, 2014 6:22 PM CST
David,

>> My current thought is to use a "sham-wow" which really absorbs water, draped over both ends of a 1" thick block of styrofoam sized to fit the tray ... and as water was absorbed the styrofoam would drop.

That sounds like a neat idea. It is a way to keep the exact same height between the water surface and the soil surface, even as the water drops.

Visualizing it, I wonder if the floating support would be "tippy" like a raft. I don't see any reason to mind if it drifts back and forth an inch or so, and sideways motion could be prevented with shims, but the idea of "tipping" makes me a little nervous. I think that might be for no good reason. I doubt if the "raft" could tip enough to make pots tip over, and a plug tray would be totally stable even if the Styrofoam did a jig. It would probably be good for the seedlings: increase air circulation and strengthen their stems!

Hey, it would tell you very clearly which rows were growing faster than other rows, by tilting towards whichever side grows foliage fastest!

P.S. Several people have suggested finding "Sham-Wow" fabric for wicks. Do they have any kind of coating or starchy filler? I have no idea, I just haven't ever had one in my hand. Probably they have some "microfiber" content, which sounds perfect for a wick.


Danita,

I like the idea of using fluorescent light diffusers as a support to give a larger reservoir! Hmm, 4 for $13 ... $3.25 each ... I would shop for used ones at a Habitat for Humanity Restore.

But I don't often go away for as long as I did recently! When I used only the grooves in the trays plus the thick mat's "sogginess" as a reservoir, small seedlings lasted 2-3 days without watering.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Apr 17, 2014 6:44 PM CST
Danita said:
>> I have some perma-nest trays that have the humidity grids that can also be used to create a reservoir when using capillary matting.

Since those must work as supplied, that eliminates one concern I thought of. How do you know that some of the holes in pots or plug trays won't wind up over a "hole" in the grid, so that the capillary mat is not pressed firmly against the soil mix?

It must not be a problem, because clearly the commercial version already works.

I wonder if the Perma-Nest system has trays with holes at the same spacing as the grid, and they just stay lined up right?

Or nice BIG holes in the trays, to assure good contact no matter how they are aligned?

Or a thick, stiff mat that presses against the soil even if the grid is not directly supporting it right under the hole.

Or maybe it isn't a problem at all! I thought it was important to use a thick and fuzzy mat with plenty of "loft", and a fairly uniform surface under the mat to provide even pressure assuring good contact through every cell's hole or slit. But I never noticed a cell drying out early.

I should make a point of withholding ALL top-watering and spraying for a few weeks to make sure my cotton flannel in 1020 trays really does touch even "difficult" cells with narrow slits.

But I missed starting spring seeds this year, altogether!
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Cinta
Aug 14, 2014 7:14 PM CST
I am probably one of very few people that have so many pots without drainage holes. But.....I am also one of those plant growers that water seldom and I mean seldom. In the summer when it rains and if I see too much water has collected in the pot I just tip them and they drain. Indoors my house plants may get a drink once a month, most times it is every other month.

I grow succulents in pots without drainage holes and have never killed one. The only plant I have ever lost is from not being watered.

This plant is in a pot without holes. It has been in this pot for 4 years. It has gotten so big you can no longer see the pot. It is a plant that seems to want to be moist at all times. If it dries out the leaves start to crispy.

[Last edited by Cinta - Aug 14, 2014 7:19 PM (+)]
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