Using Less Soil For Potted Plants


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Sometimes larger plant containers give you the height you want or the width you need to allow a particular plant to have spreading room, but require more soil than is actually necessary for a particular plant. Some people use foam peanuts in the bottom of a container to give good drainage and make the pot lighter for when you have to move it.

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I've also seen articles and Pinterest pins that suggest using other things such as aluminum drink cans, wood charcoal, terra cotta pot shards, and of course there's the tried and true drainage rock. Someone I know uses coir, which I think is a great idea, but I would still combine that with a layer of pebbles.

My favorite idea so far is one that I recently incorporated in an herb tower for garden #3, and that is simply placing a terra cotta turned upside down in the bottom of the large planter before adding your soil. This is really good for annuals and shallow rooting plants. not to mention your back, when it's time to move the planter.
 
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I've found this is a great way to use all the cheap plastic pots that new plants come in. Just turn them upside down inside a bigger pot. They are lightweight, and usually have several drainage holes in them, so the water will run straight down instead of around the sides (does that make sense?). And the biggest upside is, they're free and it's a great way to "recycle".
 
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I have done the cheap plastic pot method, turning it over in the bottom of the large pot before. I never thought of using packing peanuts. Could this harm the quality of the plant if your plant is edible?
 
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Shouldn't do, they make polystyrene planters :)
 
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This is really helpful. I had no idea. I have a split leaf philodrendon that is 15 yrs old and I have it in a 5 gal smart pot. Approximately every week, week and half, I mix miracle gro in the water and use almost a gal to feed it. Seems to like it.
The pots that I had sunk down into the ground in the yard, I just criss crossed two bricks and filled it in with soil and the plant. They lasted over 5 yrs. What a surprise! I figured two seasons and I would try something new, but hey, whatever works....
 
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Oh noooooo, I just threw out a box full of peanuts!

Ugh! Those things aren't biodegradable!

I've found this is a great way to use all the cheap plastic pots that new plants come in. Just turn them upside down inside a bigger pot. They are lightweight, and usually have several drainage holes in them, so the water will run straight down instead of around the sides (does that make sense?). And the biggest upside is, they're free and it's a great way to "recycle".

Those pots don't buckle under the weight of the soil? I reuse them all the time when I am repotting, and now I am giving most of the 3" square ones away to a member of the plant swap who regularly starts seeds. I prefer using a smaller sized terra cotta inside a large pot.

Or were you saying you use the pots like a well? I may start using terra cotta to do that as well. Are you familiar with ollas? The water seeps through slowly based on how saturated the soil already is.
 
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I have done the cheap plastic pot method, turning it over in the bottom of the large pot before. I never thought of using packing peanuts. Could this harm the quality of the plant if your plant is edible?

I don't think it will necessarily harm your edible plant (unless it's a perennial) because edibles aren't in the soil for very long. I just know that anything plastic related can leach into the soil and when you heat styrofoam it gives off a gas, and it can get pretty hot outdoors so if you plant was in a black plastic or ceramic pot...
 
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I'd be iffy to use peanuts for that. Good idea though since they're lightweight and do provide good drainage. However I think using highly porous pumice would be a safer route instead of peanuts. Lightweight and provides good drainage...Might experiment with that some time...
 
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I'd be iffy to use peanuts for that. Good idea though since they're lightweight and do provide good drainage. However I think using highly porous pumice would be a safer route instead of peanuts. Lightweight and provides good drainage...Might experiment with that some time...

Exactly. I am thinking of using something like lava rock, though I also like the idea of using 100% wood charcoal. I posted an image of the charcoal in a pot to the plant group on Facebook and someone else posted a link to an article on biochar. We know what fire does in nature after sections of field or forrest have been control-burned. Why not reap the benefit at home?
 

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Great tip, turn a plastic pot upside down in the pot, I would never have throught of that. I have used rocks in the bottom of pots. Great post.
 
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Great tip, turn a plastic pot upside down in the pot, I would never have throught of that. I have used rocks in the bottom of pots. Great post.

I wouldn't use plastic, Pat, unless it was really strong plastic. The plastic pots might collapse from the weight. I'm doing this at garden #3 to build a mint tower, but I am using terra cotta pots inside the larger plastic ones I'm planting in.

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