POTTING

This sounds simple enough and, indeed, is so, if a few cardinal points are always observed. Keep pots clean; wash them inside and out when putting away after use. Also wash the crocks and do not stint them when potting up. Do not use large pots for seedlings and small plants, but just large enough to give root room, with 1 in. of soil to spare all round. See FLOWER POTS for sizes of pots. Note that there is a type of plant pot which does not require crocks, as it has a number of slots cut diagonally to furnish both side and bottom drainage. These pots are made from a fibrous material treated with a synthetic resin and have several advantages compared with the traditional clay pots, e.g. they never break when dropped, are very light in weight, can be steam sterilised and even boiled, are unaffected by frost and breathe very freely. As a rule do not pot seedlings in rich soil; that can be done when they are established. In most cases, however, the John Innes Potting Composts available from seedsmen will cover requirements, thereby avoiding the necessity of preparing elaborate mixtures at home. See COMPOST. Related to potting is the watering of seedlings. This is sometimes done by placing the pots in a tray or zinc bath containing 1 in. of water (witli the chill off) to let the moisture soak up through the pot-hole. A better method is to plunge the pots to their rims in water until the pot is soaked but not drenched. Don’t fill with soil to the top; leave 1 in. for watering and, when seedlings are established, for filling up with richer soil as needed to nourish the roots and support the growing stem. When roots show through bottom of pot it is time to re-pot into a larger size. This is called potting-on. Potting-off, by the way, is transferring seedlings from boxes to pots, and the process of doing so is pricking out. In re-potting, tap the side of the pot to loosen the earth, then, with a finger at each side of the stem, invert the pot, and press out the root and ball of earth by pushing a twig through the pot-hole. Keep the earth round the root, and, having first crocked the larger pot, and given it a layer of soil at the bottom, put the transferred plant and its ball in, gradually filling in all round, pressing in as it is done so as to avoid unfilled spaces. Do not re-pot when soil is dry.

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