Tag Archives: upcycled plant pots

Untangling pot-bound tomato roots

“Green Thumb” Tip: Release those pot-bound roots!

Have you met Woodland Gnome? I am a great fan of her Forest Garden blog where she shares her gardening experiences along with photos of her wonderful plants. Woodland Gnome recently suggested the idea of “Green Thumb” Tips, for fellow gardeners to share their helpful hints with others – be they beginners or experienced gardeners. She said,

“Let’s work together to build an online resource of helpful tips for all of those who are passionate about plants, and who would like to learn more about how to grow them well.”

Woodland Gnome, Forest Garden

“What a good idea!” I thought.

The next day, I happened to be potting up some rather pot-bound tomato plants. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but other garden tasks had been keeping me occupied … such as dealing with rabbit problems! (If you’ve not seen my bean-plant-nibbling bunny story, you can find it here.)

I was potting up my tomatoes out of their original upcycled yogurt pots where I’d sown them and into large buckets of growbag compost. The tomato plants will then remain in their large buckets in the greenhouse to flower and hopefully produce tasty fruit as the Summer progresses.

Dealing with pot-bound tomato plant roots
Pot-bound tomato plant roots on the right. Loosened tomato plant roots on the left.

When I turned out the first tomato plant from its upcycled pot, I could see how the roots had begun to grow round and round the base of the pot. I often find this happens with houseplants or other plants that have been grown in solid-sided containers. The plant would then need re-potting into a larger container.

I thought I’d share my “Green Thumb” tip on potting up plants when they’ve become pot-bound.

As you’d imagine, having its roots running round in a tightly packed circle is not a natural or healthy condition for a plant. Roots are designed to spread out as they grow, to find nutrients and water for the plant.

My “Green Thumb” tip for re-potting a plant that has become pot-bound is this:

Teasing out pot-bound roots
Carefully tease out the pot-bound roots from their tight circle

I always very gently tease out the roots that have formed a pot-shaped circle on the base of the root ball. We don’t want to damage any of the roots, if at all possible, so it’s best to take time and go slowly with this task.

Potting on tomato plant
Now with loosened roots, the tomato plant is ready to re-pot

You can see on this tomato plant that the circle-bound roots ended up being several inches long. Now that these end roots are free rather than being bound to each other, they will be much more effective in supplying the plant with water and nutrients.

I then just pot up the plant in the normal way into a larger container – in my case, the plant was going into one of my large tomato plant buckets (they’re upcycled flower buckets from my local supermarket – I’m a great fan of upcycling!).

Potted-up tomato plants in the greenhouse
My potted-up tomato plants, now back in the greenhouse

Now that’s my greenhouse full of tomato plants … and there are still a few spare! I’ll just have to find a space in the garden for them … somewhere … 🙂

You can click here to visit Woodland Gnome’s Forest Garden blog for more “Green Thumb” Tips.

J Peggy Taylor

Back yard gardening: Spring Onion success

Gardening in a small space means there’s never enough room for everything you want. I’ve begun to make more use of the vertical space, especially along the sunny fence as I was showing you in this previous post. During Spring and Summer, my indoor window ledges are also pressed into service as ‘gardening’ areas for herbs and salad leaves. I try to grow some food crops as well as flowers.

This year I’m experimenting with growing Spring Onions both outdoors and indoors. The variety is DT Brown’s classic, White Lisbon. The indoor Spring Onions are in an upcycled apple juice carton. I wasn’t sure if this would be deep enough for them to fully grow.

Indoor-grown Spring Onions
Indoor-grown Spring Onions in their upcycled apple juice carton

The idea initially was to pot them on into a deeper container but somehow time got eaten up by other things and the seedlings grew too large to be able to transplant them without damaging the roots. Hence, the Spring Onions are still growing in their apple juice carton on my kitchen window ledge, but they don’t seem to have suffered too much it seems. They’ve grown on well from sowing in early April and some are almost ready for harvesting now. As I was preparing this post, I noticed I’d sown 20 seeds and this has resulted in a dozen plants.

Outdoor-grown Spring Onions
Spring Onions grown on outdoors after seedlings germinated indoors

My first two pots of outdoor Spring Onions were first sown into a small ‘propagator’ (upcycled food packaging) and kept on the kitchen window ledge. When the seedlings showed, I transplanted them into upcycled milk cartons and then I moved them outdoors.

Spring Onions sown and grown outdoors
Spring Onions sown and grown outdoors

For the final sowing of Spring Onions at the end of April, I sowed another small batch of seeds directly into their upcycled milk carton pot and hung them outside straight away. The milk carton plant pots are just hung on the sunny fence with string. Keeping the jug handle on the milk carton plant pots is useful for tying them onto other supports, I’ve found. I’ve done this with the air-pruning plant pots I made from milk cartons to hang on my willow garden screens too.

Outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well
Outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well in their upcycled milk carton plant pots

All of the outdoor Spring Onions have grown on well, despite regular buffeting by the seemingly incessant wind this Spring and Summer. The White Lisbon Spring Onions have been easy enough to grow. Regular watering has been the only after-care needed.

Sweet Pea plants showing some snail or slug damage
Sweet Pea plants showing some snail or slug damage

I’ve been pleased to note that another benefit to my vertical gardening experiments has been … so far! 😉 … the plants seem to have stayed safe from the munching molluscs that share my yard – or perhaps they’ve just been too busy grazing on my Sweet Peas!

J Peggy Taylor

Fresh cooking herbs on a plate

Handy home-grown herbs

There’s nothing quite like having your own home-grown herbs right there ready to add a handful of fresh flavour to all kinds of cooking. From flans to fish and stews to salads, I really love being able to snip some of my favourite herbs right when I need them.

Not having much space means it makes sense for me to grow the herbs I use most. For me, that means Parsley, Thyme, Sage and Mint. This Spring I sowed my pots of Parsley, Thyme and Sage indoors.

I was starting from scratch with most of my herb plants as the previous plants had either reached the end of their productive lives or succumbed to backyard pests! As an extra precaution I went for indoor window ledge gardening for these three herbs this year.

First Parsley seedling2014
My first parsley seedling of 2014

It seems a long time since I sowed the Parsley seeds in yoghurt pots back in early March and watched the first little green crooks pop up through the compost. After the seedlings had grown on a little, I potted them up into some deeper recycled vegetable trays, spacing out the plants so they had enough room to grow.

Potted-up Parsley seedlings growing their first leaves
Potted-up Parsley seedlings growing their first leaves
A forest of Parsley plants growing in their upcycled plant pots on an indoor west-facing window ledge
A forest of Parsley plants growing in their upcycled plant pots on an indoor west-facing window ledge

The Thyme was sown at the end of March into its own mini-coldframe – an upcycled salad box with a hinged transparent lid. Thyme seedlings really are very small at first so I tend to sow seeds thinly and grow them in a little clump.

The tiny Thyme seedlings germinating in their upcycled mini-coldframe
The tiny Thyme seedlings germinating in their upcycled mini-coldframe

I then leave the Thyme seedlings just as they are without pricking them out separately. When the seedlings grew larger I simply potted up the whole clump into a clay plant pot. I chose a clay pot for the Thyme as it prefers well-drained soil.

My clump of Thyme is growing on well in its clay pot
My clump of Thyme is growing on well in its clay pot

The Sage was sown in early April in its larger sized clay plant pot – Sage also likes well-drained soil. Sage seeds are large enough to sow individually so I carefully distributed twelve of them around the pot. Although it wasn’t especially cold, it took some time to persuade the Sage seeds to germinate. When no seedlings seemed to be appearing I covered the pot loosely with a plastic sheet for about a week, then sure enough, through they all popped up quite quickly after that!

The Sage seedlings were eventually persuaded to put in an appearance - then they all popped through at the same time!
The Sage seedlings were eventually persuaded to put in an appearance – then they all popped through at the same time!

The Sage seedlings certainly very quickly made up any lost growing time – they seemed to shoot away on this sunny west-facing window ledge!

The Sage plants have grown on rapidly after a hesitant start
The Sage plants have grown on rapidly after a hesitant start

The Mint has grown on well from a cutting I obtained late last Summer. After encouraging this herb on my ‘warm’ window ledge over the Winter, I potted it up and placed it out in my yard in early April.

The Mint cutting in my backyard is growing on into a plant in its own right now
The Mint cutting in my backyard is growing on into a plant in its own right now

It’s starting to look like a real Mint plant now and at least it seems our slugs and snails don’t care much for menthol so they are steering clear of it, I’m pleased to say!

I find growing my own herbs is really easy. Herb seeds, some general purpose compost and some containers to grow them in, that’s all you need. You can see I haven’t gone for any fancy stuff here! Apart from the two simple clay pots, most of my ‘plant pots’ are recycled packaging from vegetables or other foodstuffs. Yoghurt pots are another of my favourite upcycled containers, along with milk cartons which I do find can be extremely versatile.

Harvesting fresh herbs couldn’t be simpler – a pair of scissors is all I use. I will usually just cut enough for the cooking task in hand. With Parsley, I harvest starting with the outside leaves. I took my first Parsley ‘harvest’ in early May – that’s a couple of months from sowing the seeds. I’ve aimed to grow enough plants to provide a plentiful supply for our needs, allowing time for the plants to grow on again. The Parsley should continue to grow and provide fresh leaves throughout the year from this indoor planting (unless it gets very cold in winter).

With the Sage, Thyme and Mint, I will continue to use fresh leaves over the Summer. However, I shall also start cutting and drying some of these herbs too, for use during the colder months. I’ll show you more on that another time.

J Peggy Taylor

Crochet jute and willow garden screen - crochet close-up

The crochet jute and willow garden screen – completed!

The crochet jute and willow garden screen that I have been creating as a support for my Sweet Pea plants is now complete.

The gate section of my crochet jute and willow garden screen - ready to fix in place
The gate section of my crochet jute and willow garden screen – ready to fix in place

This second part of the willow screen I have made just like the first one, using two rows of crochet green jute yarn to bind the willow rods together.

I needed to make this part of the willow screen a bit shorter than the first one because this one is to go on the back of my yard gate. I wasn’t too sure how this part of the garden screen was going to work out when I came to fix the screen in situ. This part of the experiment was going to be interesting … discovering whether my plan would go exactly according to plan!

My wood-crafting son helped me out with the hand-hewn batten I wanted, to hold the willow screen for the gate in place. The batten is made from a short length of sycamore branch that we happened to have lying around. After sawing it to length, we removed the bark and my son deftly axed it into shape so that it could be easily screwed onto the back of the gate. I love the smooth, pale grain of sycamore. Next, I pre-drilled holes in the appropriate places after I’d checked precisely where the batten was going to fit onto the gate and I partly inserted the screws ready to attach it.

To fix this second piece of my willow garden screen in place, I first tacked the lower row of jute crochet to the top of the gate using small fencing staples. I then loosely attached the batten at each end whilst I reorganised some of the willow rods that I found had slipped out of place.

Attaching the willow screen to the gate with staples and a hand-hewn batten
The willow screen is held in place by fencing staples and the hand-hewn sycamore batten

When I was happy with the position of the basic frame, I then began weaving some thinner willow rods across the garden screen. I worked in a random fashion, just as I had done with the first part of the screen. I was aiming for the garden screen to still allow a lot of light through it so that the light would continue to reach the numerous other trees and plants in my yard. Even though the willow weavers are very thin, they do provide a reasonably sturdy structure on which my Sweet Pea plants can grow.

I inserted the thin willow cross weavers in a random fashion
I inserted the thin willow cross weavers in a random fashion

I made sure there was a slightly stouter rod at each end of the willow screen to provide stability. I had wondered about the overall stability of the willow screen in windy conditions, as I mentioned in a previous post on this project, but the first part of my garden screen has been in place for a couple of weeks now and has survived some moderate winds … so far so good!

The first air-pruning plant pot fixed in place on the willow garden screen
The first air-pruning plant pot fixed in place on the willow garden screen

Now it was time to attach the air-pruning plant pots with their cargoes of Sweet Pea plants onto the willow garden screen. I had experimented with one plant pot a couple of days ago on the first part of the willow screen and my design plan seems to be holding up well, so I set to work attaching the other five plant pots.

As I had anticipated, the handles of my upcycled milk carton air-pruning plant pots came in very useful at this stage. I tied the plant pots firmly in place, making sure they couldn’t slip out of position as this could potentially damage the growing plants.

For the three plant pots near my wall, I used the string loop I’d added to each plant pot for this purpose. I’d initially thought I might just stand the Sweet Pea plant pots on top of the plant buckets into which I’d inserted the willow rods of the garden screen, along behind my yard wall. But some tell-tale slug trails nearby suggested it may be a good idea to tie the pots a little higher – hopefully out of temptation’s way! The recent experience of slugs and Soapwort is still fresh in my mind!

I attached the other two Sweet Pea plant pots along by the wall
I attached the other two Sweet Pea plant pots along by the wall

To secure the Sweet Pea plant pots to the back of my gate, I decided to use my new firmly fixed sycamore batten. Again I made use of the handles of the recycled milk carton plant pots when attaching the string.

Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen
Air-pruning plant pots firmly secured to the gate and the Sweet Pea plants arranged on the jute and willow garden screen

When I had all of the Sweet Pea plant pots in place, my final task was to carefully arrange the growing plants, weaving the stems in and out of the willow screen where I am hoping they will continue to grow and flourish. Perhaps before too much longer I will be able to post about my first Sweet Pea flowers – I do hope so!

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