Garden lore

“In fine weather the old gentleman is almost constantly in the garden; and when it is too wet to into it, he will look out of the window at it by the hour together. He has always something to do there, and you will see him digging, and sweeping, and cutting, and planting, with manifest delight…; and in the evening when the sun has gone down, the perseverance with which he lugs a great watering-pot about is perfectly astonishing.”

Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz

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Dealing with large container plants

Woody trees and shrubs cannot be left permanently in tubs and containers and expected to prosper. At some point they will start to go back badly because you have put them into an artificial, controlled environment. While you can extend by regular feeding, there comes a time when you have to repot, which is easier said than done with large plants and heavy pots. Get a large piece of plastic and gently tip the pot over on its side. You may need to support the plant to prevent damage. Then with an old carving knife, start excavating the old potting mix, rolling the pot as you go. This is not usually a three minute job.

Once you can get the plant right out of the pot, remove all the old potting mix that you can. I finish off by using the hose to wash out more. If it is going back into the same pot, you will probably have to trim the roots. Make sure you trim the top as well, to reduce stress on the poor plant. Repot using a good quality potting mix, making sure you get mix all through the plant as well as underneath and around it. Most mixes come with slow release fertiliser already added, in which case don’t add extra. Keep the final level about 2.5cm below the rim of the pot to make watering easier.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

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