Potting On

After a few days of rain, the storm still rages. It’s meant to be worse again tomorrow, and then pretty much carry on for most of next week.

However, I did manage to rally and forced myself to spend the whole afternoon outside. Sweater-clad, and fortified by cups of hot coffee, I sat beneath the shelter of the back porch and potted on most of the landscaping plants I’d collected back in April.

Potting on is quite a simple concept: you take young plants or seedlings out of their small pots and transfer them to slightly larger pots so that they can grow bigger. For small plants, a good general rule is that you want the next pot to be about an inch/2.5cm wider and deeper than the last one. For larger plants or trees, you’ll want a pot that affords about a fist-width of space beneath and around all sides of the root ball. Any bigger or smaller than that and you’re pretty much wasting your time. As the plants grow and fill their new pots, you may have to repeat the process every few weeks until they reach their mature size or they’re big enough to plant in the ground.

How do you know whether you need to transplant to a bigger pot? You check. If you can see roots starting to come out of the drainage holes of the current pot, or if you slip the plant out of its pot and find that you see more roots than soil, then it’s time. A plant can’t eat its own roots, so when there is no longer enough soil left in the pot to keep it going, you need to give it a bigger pot.

The benefit of this practice (for me) is that hopefully I’ll end up with bigger, healthier plants to transplant into the ground. I’ve bought a lot of plants for the new section, but I’ve bought cheap which also means I’ve (mostly) bought small. A great many of these plants are trees, which means they have a lot of growth ahead of them, but also means that they’ll cope better if they go in the ground a bit bigger. Small, young plants are easily damaged by wind, frost or pests, and can even be choked out by weeds. I want these trees to be around 0.5m-1m tall before I plant them. The good news is, according to the site plan I was working on last night, I’ve already got enough plants to cover the whole hillside overlooking our house – about 1/3 of the new section already sorted.

As it turned out, most of my new plants had put on a lot more growth than I’d expected. Even the 20 baby cabbage trees (centre of the picture below), which arrived in the mail bare-rooted, and which I’d immediately shoved into a large pot as one big clump just to keep their feet wet until I had time to sort them out. Well, when I pulled out that clump and started picking them apart, each little plant already had a root ball the size of my fist. Obviously the warm and (now) wet May has been very pleasant for them. They were not just surviving but thriving.


And they weren’t the only ones. The pohutukawa, gardenias, red mapou, purple akeake, cannas, renga renga lilies, even the slow-growing carex grasses all needed new homes. Altogether, over 100 plants. I completely ran out of pots and ended up with many things sharing larger tubs. It was after dark when I’d finished (hence no “after” photos) and I’m still not really finished. The bigger boys – the puriri, puka, port wine magnolias, pygmy date palm, purple flaxes, even my new akapuka – they all need more room, as well as my little black matipo seedlings which missed out on new pots… So that would be about 50 more plants in total.

I have to go back to work tomorrow afternoon (for outdoor activities, which I suspect will be cancelled due to weather anyway), but I just might have to go to the landscaping supply store first and pick up some planter bags.

Lots and lots of planter bags… Might have to do all of this again in another month.



One thought on “Potting On

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s