Monday, April 6, 2015

Thinking Smalls

Topper for a bird house could also
be used as a mailbox topper.
As you decide to pot up herbs and flowers this spring, think ahead to what it will take to make them live all summer.  

I've copied some pretty examples of annuals in small pots from the web.  All look good in the pictures. 

I'm not telling anyone to NOT plant up small pots of annuals.  What I'll share is what it will and won't do long term.

Most annuals will want to spread - both plant and roots.  A small pot will sooner or later confine the plant and roots where it will need to be trimmed and/or divided.  If it's not trimmed and/or divided it will eventually starve to death because it can't get enough nutrients or water.

A small potted plant will require constant monitoring to make sure it doesn't dry out.  Because there is so little soil and the sides of the pot exposes the soil to evaporation quickly, it will dry fast especially during hot weather.  Small plants may require watering at least once a day - sometimes more.  

Another use for wood pallets
Because they take so much watering, the nutrients will be washed out and used by the plant quickly.  To keep them looking good and producing, you will need to add a mild solution of fertilizer almost daily about a month after potting.

You will need to prune the plant by occasionally pinching off the tops of the stems.  This will keep the plant from getting "leggy".  It's a term we use for stems that become so long the plant looses it's shape.  These long stems eventually stop producing leaves and flowers or become distorted.  If the stems are not pruned regularly from the start, it's almost impossible to reverse the ugly once the stems become long.

Plant dwarf varieties in small pots.  These will require less pruning and may stay well behaved for it's pot size.  

Good for those with no yard.
If the plant becomes root bound (meaning roots fill the pot often winding around), it will eventually die.  Tapping the plant out and taking a knife or pruners cut the plant in half, cut roots down to about three inches, prune the top down and repot into two separate plants/pots.  

Dividing works well for lettuce and other short plants such as marigolds.  If you have planted taller (non dwarf) varieties it may take a month for them to come back.  

If you plant herbs, with the exception of dill, most respond well to division and pruning.  Dill must not be pruned until the seed heads are ready for use.  At this point, take off the seed head & stem down to the leaves and try again - it may or may not respond.  Most other herbs benefit from pruning off the flower heads as the flowers sap nutrients and it's the leaves you use.  

Don't prune peppers or tomatoes once they start blooming.  Vegetables will not produce fruit if you remove the flowers.

Succulents may be the best plant for small pots because they require less water, nutrients and pruning.   

If you let one of these little pots get completely dry, the plant will loose roots and suffer.  Most will not sufficiently recover.

Unglazed pots will loose moisture faster than glazed.

I noticed these pots have no saucers under them to catch the water.  Obviously this will allow dirty or fertilized water to run down onto whatever is under the pots.  Soil and fertilizer stain wood, fabric and porous stones.  This might have been done for the beauty of the pictures but I would recommend saucers to hold water and let the plant suck it up over time.  Plus it gives you an idea of when it's dry or watered enough.

Even small pots must be situated in the right light for each plant to produce and live.  If it requires full sun or is in a lot of wind, it will dry much faster.

If you plan a long vacation during the summer, either have a watchful person take care of these small pots or they will be dead by the time you return.

I would also recommend they be situated close to your source of water (hose or faucet) so it won't be such a chore to water so often. Small pots should be watered gently so the soil isn't splashed out.

You may also want to consider planting twice during the year - one batch in the spring and another towards July to replace any that have been spent.
I'm not against little pots, especially for the dryer needs of succulents.  Small pots can fit small spaces.  They don't require a strong back to move.  But they do require dedicated attention during the summer.  Nothing looks sadder than a bunch of little pots with mostly dead plants detracting from your beautiful surroundings.    

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