Miniature Gardening in Recycled Containers, Part II
This is a continuation from last week’s blog, Part I, where we covered planting in suitcases, drawers, wheelbarrows, metal cans, wood crates and trugs. Today, we’re covering shoes, boots, broken pots, baskets, teacups, bowls and dishes. Whew! Perhaps it’s time to create a “Most Unusual Category” for our upcoming Annual Miniature Garden Contest being announced next week.
Recall Grandma’s words, “Just because you can doesn’t mean that you should.” As gardeners, we are natural stewards of the earth and I feel that we have an unspoken mandate to do what is best for the environment above and beyond what’s trendy or cute. Let me know what you think out this statement in the comments below – are we obligated to take into consideration the rules of reduce, reuse and recycle, first and foremost?
Planting in Shoes and Boots
Shoes and boots make a great whimsical container for small plants but you are speeding up their trip to the landfill if you choose to plant up a decent pair of shoes that can be used by someone else. The idea behind the shoe-pot was to plant up an old, worn-out shoe to prolong its life and keep it out of the landfill. Pick a pair of shoes that you have saved from the garbage bin instead of plucking it straight out of your closet that will be better sent to Goodwill and reused by someone else. Try painting them if you want to do create something really unique.
The Broken Pot Garden
This idea has been circulating like mad on Pinterest and Facebook. If you use a broken pot to nest your miniature world in it, will be a temporary world. First of all, a lot of the pots used are terracotta which will add to the failure rate dramatically. Terracotta is very porous and wicks the moisture out of the soil and away from the plant’s roots. Secondly, not having a complete pot surrounding the soil will allow the moisture in the soil to evaporate very quickly. Once that soil dries out completely, the result will be dead plants – and a broken pot.
CAVEAT EMPTOR (means “Buyer beware”) – If you do enjoy this broken pot idea, please don’t buy a broken pot. I have heard of garden centers selling broken pots for this idea and, I’m sorry, that just tightens my jaw. Know that any store is going to throw out the pot anyway, you are doing them a favor by carting it away – for free. And use plants that can take the dryness too, like Sedums and Hens and Chicks.
Planting in Baskets
Baskets lined in moss are for temporary arrangements. The moss does not keep the moisture in the soil, the basket dries out very quickly, the moss turns yellow and it becomes a big, dead mess. (Moss needs humidity because it absorbs water through its leaves.) This idea comes from the floral industry and can be a pretty display that lasts if it is done right. Place the whole pot and saucer, or a combination of small pots with saucers, in the basket and hide those plastic pots with moss. Find a good selection of different sized saucers at your local nursery or garden center.
Plastic-lined baskets don’t let the moisture out of the soil, the water doesn’t not let the air into the soil, plant’s roots rot and it’s a slippery slope to certain plant death. Use this kind of basket the same way as above, and place the whole potted plant in the basket – because it’s lined in plastic, you may not need the saucer. Always be wary of placing that planted basket or any pot on any surface, the moisture will damage wood surfaces quite quickly.
The wicker that the baskets are made of needs to stay dry to keep its rigidity, strength and shape. When baskets are made, the wicker is soaked in water to stay plyable while it is woven. Once the weaving is done, the basket is left to dry and it is really not supposed to be wet again. With the constant watering that your potted basket will need, the wicker will loosen up, the integrity of the weave will be compromized and lead to – you guessed it – landfill.
Gardens in Teacups, Bowls, Dishes
I know, a miniature garden can be really cute planted in a teacup or china-bowl. But without a drainage hole, you’ll have to be very attentive to the watering almost every day. If you over water it then you have a stressed out plant until the soil can dry out a bit. I have very little luck with containers that don’t have a drainage hole, life gets busy, Steve waters, then I water it again – and we end up with a little rotted mess. Then Steve backs off on the watering, I back-off thinking Steve is watering – and we end up with a dry-crispy mess. Fun, huh?
However, if you must go forth with this idea because it is a cute one, borrow the trick from last week’s blog and monitor the dampness of the soil by using a wood skewer tucked in the back of the garden. If the wood is damp, hold off on watering, if it’s dry, then water.
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