I'm a very competitive gardener and many of my gardening comrades are aware of this. I love it when I have bigger tomatoes, more flowers, taller peppers, and unique and older varieties of plants that people in my neck of the woods have never seen. I'm also blessed with a lot of free time and a mild climate to help make my gardens the envy of the neighborhood.
Last year I grew some greenhouse peppers from seeds I had started in winter. They grew and thrived and were abundant with fruits. When autumn rolled around and the air cast a chill, I was suddenly stricken with despair for my pepper plants that had taken so long to grow into the big beautiful bushes they had become. So, I dug them up, shoved them in some big, plastic garden pots, tucked some potting soil down the sides, and put them away in the greenhouse for safekeeping.
Now that spring has sprung and the growing season has begun, I have gradually started moving everything out of that hothouse that allows me to have and keep my star plants. When I got to the peppers, I wasn't sure what to do with them. Seven strong varieties were starting to blossom once again. I knew that if I were to keep them in these black, plastic pots, they would soon become rootbound and would need more frequent watering and fertilizer.
But if I were to plant them in the cool, moist soil of a garden bed, I also knew I would most likely end up doing the same thing I did last year when the time came: digging them up, brushing off the roots, repotting them, and stashing them away until it was safe for them to come out again.
So I had an idea. There is a method called double potting that helps lessen the evaporation of water from the soil in a garden pot. It works by setting the planted container in a larger one and filling in the gap around the first pot with heavy garden soil. When the plants are watered, both pots are watered. This, in turn, holds extra moisture, keeps the soil cooler, and fights either natural evaporation or the kind caused by hot and windy summer days.
This wouldn't quite solve my dilemma. The roots will still want to grow. Peppers are very tough and very resilient. It may be rough on them to dig them up each year, but it only stunts their growth for the winter months, when they wouldn't do much growing anyway. "Come with me if you want to live, pepper plant." In the spring, however, those roots want to spread out and seek the moist fertile earth around them. If I were to use the double potting method, this could help with the inevitable watering and I just might be able to pull it off, but then what to do with the rootbound plant next year?
So, I had another idea: Bury the pot -- the whole thing -- and cut the very bottom of the container off so the roots can spread. Have you ever moved a garden pot that's been sitting for a while with some growing plants in it? Have you heard that ripping sound of the roots that had crept out of the drainage holes? Those roots will grow out if they want to. Planting the entire pot, minus the bottom part I'd cut off, would create the best of both worlds: evaporation prevention and root growth.
First I set my potted peppers where I wanted them to grow.
(And took a mental note to straighten up some loose bricks.)
I dug a good-sized hole, the size of the pot.
After a lengthy search for my garden snippers, I began cutting at one of the drainage holes and made my way around.
This revealed some very healthy roots that were just ready to become pot-bound.
In went the plant, and soil was back-filled in and around. It was topped with a heavy layer of mulch, and -- Voila!
After doing the other peppers in the same manner, I'm pretty certain this will also make it easier for me to lift them from the ground and place them in another garden pot when it comes time to put them to bed in the greenhouse. I'm not sure I'll do the same thing next year. Perhaps I'll start some seeds after I plant these peppers in the ground again after another winter and start over. We'll see what happens.