Tag Archives: making air-pruning plant pots

Firming in a Soapwort seedling

A tale of slugs and Soapwort

Growing Soapwort Saponaria officinalis is a new experience for me. I embarked on this project after I’d been crocheting in natural undyed wools during last year.

soapwort in flower by The Herb Gardener (see creative commons license below)
The Herb Gardener’s article on growing Soapwort was very useful

IMAGE: http://theherbgardener.blogspot.co.uk/2010/03/growing-soapwort-saponaria-officinalis.html [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

After some research, I decided that growing some of this pure and natural soap source for myself would be a really good idea as it is ideal for gently hand washing any projects I made in natural wool. Soapwort is so gentle I have read it has even been used to clean the Bayeux Tapestry. At approaching 1000 years old now, obviously they don’t just pop that into the automatic washing machine!

I sowed my Soapwort seeds back in October last year as I’d read that germination would be helped by overwintering them outside. Many seeds are like that – it is called ‘cold stratification’ and helps to trigger the seed into growth. It must have just about been cold enough, despite our relatively mild winter, as one seedling germinated very early in the year. It grew on alone until early April when several more seedlings put in an appearance.

Soapwort seedlings
Happy, healthy Soapwort seedlings … and they continued to grow

There were about a dozen seedlings eventually, all looking very healthy and they were gradually growing larger. I was feeling pleased with myself at managing to grow another new plant from seed. Then, one morning in late April I went out into the yard to check them, “Aargh! Oh no!” Some were gone altogether. The remains of others were lying forlornly on the top of the compost. I knew instantly. “Slugs!!”

The four-and-a-half Soapwort seedlings the slugs kindly left for me!
The four-and-a-half Soapwort seedlings the slugs kindly left for me!

For some reason I had thought that slugs would not have had a taste for Soapwort since it contains saponins – that’s the substance that enables Soapwort to form a lather, just like soap. Evidently I was wrong! I looked around for any shifty-looking slithering culprits foaming at the mouth, but none were to be found!

“Could be worse!” I thought to myself. After all, I still had four and a half seedlings left! I took the precaution of taking the pot of remaining seedlings indoors. This was around the time I had become a convert to air-pruning plant pots, so there was only one thing to do. I set to work making two more air-pruning plant pots, for my remaining Soapwort seedlings. Soapwort can be grown from seed or by division of roots, so I decided to pot up two seedlings into each air-pruning plant pot.

Potting up a Soapwort seedling
Potting up a Soapwort seedling

If you’re interested in learning more about the concept of air-pruning plants to improve plant growth and finding out how I made my upcycled plant pots from recycled milk cartons (complete with their own snug fabric growbags), do take a look at the links to see some of my previous posts on this subject.

My remaining Soapwort seedlings - now potted up into their new air-pruning plant pots
My remaining Soapwort seedlings – now potted up into their new air-pruning plant pots

After potting up my remaining Soapwort seedlings into their new air-pruning plant pots I added them to my new plant shelf, alongside my Sweet Pea seedlings in their similar pots. Having discovered that slugs do indeed find Soapwort tasty, my next task was to devise a plan to try and put more distance between the slugs and the little Soapwort plants when I put them back outside in the yard.

My crochet plant hanger in jute yarn
My crochet plant hanger in jute yarn

My solution has been to crochet a plant hanger in the same green jute yarn I have been using to construct my crochet jute and willow garden screens. I will show you more on my crochet jute plant hanger soon.

J Peggy Taylor

My six upcycled air-pruning plant pots now complete with their newly sown Sweet Pea seeds

Sowing and growing in upcycled air-pruning plant pots

My air-pruning plant pot project is continuing to make good progress. In my last post I’d added some upcycled fabric grow-bags to the upcycled plant pots I’d created from milk cartons. The next stage was to fill my now-fully-prepared air-pruning plant pots with compost and sow my Sweet Pea seeds.

I discovered the cut-off piece of the milk carton made a very useful sized scoop when filling my air-pruning plant pot with compost
I discovered the cut-off piece of the milk carton made a very useful sized scoop when filling my air-pruning plant pot with compost
In the process of making my milk carton plant pots I’d cut off a scoop shape from the top of each carton. I discovered one of these mini plastic scoops made an ideal assistant for filling the plant pots with compost. I filled the pots quite close to the top with compost but left enough space to accommodate sufficient watering.

I generally plant seeds into ready-watered compost, so the next job was to carefully water the compost in the fabric grow-bag. As I was adding the water, I was also watching to see how the water soaked through the compost and out into the fabric grow-bag. When I’d prepared the air-pruning plant pots I hadn’t made drainage holes in the base of the pots as I felt there was plenty of opportunity for evaporation through the sides of these smaller-sized air-pruning pots. I’d left about 2.5cm /1 inch intact around the bottom of the plant pots too, to catch the water if I did happen to water them too enthusiastically!

I left the bases of the milk cartons intact so that they would catch any extra water whenever I watered the Sweet Pea seedlings
I left the bases of the milk cartons intact so that they would catch any extra water whenever I watered the Sweet Pea seedlings

Now it was time to sow the Sweet Pea seeds. Sweet Pea seeds are quite large, as seeds go, so for this task I used my ‘old pen’ dibber to make the holes in the compost about 1.5cm / half inch deep. I decided to sow two Sweet Peas in each pot. Then after sowing the seeds I used the dibber to cover them over with compost before adding a final drop of water to help the seeds on their way.

Making the planting holes with my 'old pen' dibber for my Sweet Pea seeds
Making the planting holes with my ‘old pen’ dibber for my Sweet Pea seeds

And that was the seed-sowing done. The only remaining task I had was finding a suitable indoor home for my plant pots … time to build a new shelf …

All of my Sweet Pea seedlings are doing well in their air-pruning plant pots
All of my Sweet Pea seedlings are doing well in their air-pruning plant pots

I’m pleased to say that all of the Sweet Peas have now germinated and the seedlings are looking healthy.

Now I must get working on completing my crochet jute and willow garden screens ready to support the Sweet Pea plants in my back yard … hopefully I’ll be posting more on that very soon.

J Peggy Taylor