Thursday, April 29, 2010

Potting on ...




Back at the beginning of March I wrote about pricking out my wallflower seedlings and potting them up as plug plants. This is what they looked like then ...





After about a month it was clear that they needed potting on. So I duly transferred them. In theory they should all have gone into 3" pots, but there were over sixty of them, and sixty 3" pots would have taken up more space on the balcony than I had to spare. So about twenty of them went into their own pots while the others went straight into the final containers where they'll grow till they flower next spring.

Would it make a difference? All the gardening books and experts are stern about it : never give a young plant more space than it needs at that moment, or it will just put down roots and "forget" to develop above ground.

But that wasn't the only one of gardening's ten commandments that I managed to break. When I'd transferred almost all of them, I ran out of fresh soil. I wanted to finish, so I just used a container that still had last year's soil in it. How much difference would that make?

Well, here are the results. First the container with fresh soil...





Happy, healthy little plants, coming on well in comparison to their clearly deprived friends in the container with old soil. Most of them haven't made it at all, while the rest remain small and weedy. The self seeded sunflower in there with them doesn't look too happy either ...



But then there are the plants in the 3" pots. Bear in mind that all of these plants were approximately the same size when I moved them a month or so ago.



The "potted" plants are more than twice the size even of those in the first container.

Will it make a difference to the display next year? The jury's going to have to stay out till next April before we can get a verdict on that one. The ones in the container with the poor soil are clearly going to need some tender loving care. Transplanting to new soil is the obvious answer, but as I've got so many I thought I'd try an experiment and see to what extent I can "remediate" with fertiliser. When you garden on a balcony in the middle of a city, disposing of old soil is a huge headache, and if you can re-use it, it's one less problem to worry about. We'll see ...

As for the difference between those in the container with good soil and those in the pots, I suspect that there'll be time for things to even out. Or there's even the possibility that superior root development will give the container plants the edge in the long run. Again, we'll see.

One thing is clear however. Had these been annuals rather than biennials, it would have made a huge difference - and meant a much earlier flowering period. From now on, any annuals that I grow from seed will definitely get "potted".

Meanwhile, the wallflowers from last year have been giving a wonderful display. Next year's plants will be a mix of the same browny-yellow ones as are here, plus a new red variety. I'm in two minds about it - for me, wallflowers are brown and yellow. But yet again, we'll see...





12 comments:

Carrie said...

Oh I love to break a few rules - you go girl :) What a difference - this is really quite interesting!

Kyna said...

They definitely look successful to me! :)

Turling said...

I am just amazed at the differences. Good to know, as I would have done exactly the same thing you did. Now, it looks like I have a lot of repotting to smaller pots this weekend to get accomplished.

AaronVFT said...

Oh! The flowers are beautiful! Hope they all grow well for you!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

What a fun little science experiment. Last year's soil seems clearly exhausted. I've done the same thing (not with Wallflowers), cheating using a pot with soil I already had, and without a lot of TLC and extra fertilizer, the plants seem to struggle. It does seem there maybe something to the 'don't give them more room than they need', but it will be interesting to see if/how things even out.

Jan said...

Well, I'm absolutely amazed that the second-hand soil makes such a big difference, but you have the proof! I have been guilty of re-using in the past, but will try not to do it again.

Helen at summerhouse said...

This was definitely an informative post. Like the way you compared the soils and it's something to keep in mind. I'm a bit worried about my squash seedlings. I may have moved them to a cooler spot too soon. Ah well, I may have to try again. At least it's still early.

Linda said...

Wallflowers are wonderfully old-fashioned flowers. I love them! I hope they're as beautifully fragranced as the ones in my grandmas garden.

The Redneck Rosarian said...

What fun! Glad to see these beautiful colors together. Bravo!

~Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

You did a great job of showing the differences.

Ali said...

Beautiful! Such happy plants 8)

A Million Words said...

I'm fairly new to the gardening scene, and I'd never heard that you shouldn't give a seedling more root space than it absolutely needs. What a great accidental experiment!

This reminds me of Adina Sara's gardening memoir, The Imperfect Garden. She talks about spending hours and hours planning how she'll plant her garden--which plants will go where, etc. Then, once it's planted, some things come up wherever they feel like while others are perfectly obedient. It's good to know that there is SOME rhyme or reason to gardening...

Here's a link to Adina Sara's book. You should check it out. http://amzn.to/di8HCT

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