Sharon Johnson of Columbia, S.C., is a passionate gardener, a point that is made obvious by the fact that she lives on a small lot, full of concrete pads, yet she has found a way to have a beautiful garden full of flowers, fruits, vegetable and herbs. Some are in containers, some are not. Her blog will document the adventures of gardening in pots, fending off deer and small animals and the trials of organic gardening.
 

 

The Dark Side of Refurbishing your Container Soil
by Sharon Johnson - posted 04/15/12

Well, I know we’ve had all these late frosts and tomatoes should NOT be in the ground yet; however, Mother Nature knows best and she has planted tomatoes and other “foreign” seed into every container I own.  Welcome to the dark side of being green by reusing your container soil: unexpected seed germination.

Sweet Baby Girl is one of my favorite tomatoes.  She’s as close to a grape tomato as you can get, both sweet and prolific…perhaps too prolific, as she has reseeded my entire container collection and the seedlings are popping up now, in the midst of 38 degree mornings and 60 degree days with no ill effect. I also have something resembling sunflower seedlings competing with my salad garden.  I surely didn’t plant any of these plants THIS season. 

This is the problem of refurbishing container soil instead of replacing it: mystery plants.  I happen to like mystery plants, but not when they steal nutrients from my intended plantings.  So, you have two options for dealing with these intrepid interlopers.

  1. Just pull them out by the roots.  If they are too close to your other seedlings, then cut the tops off with a pair of scissors. Or you could:
  2. Transplant them to a more desirable location.  Use a trowel and dig a good two inches around the seedling.  Using your hand, carefully pull the seedling from the soil.  You may want to dip the roots in water (this lessens the stress of transplanting) and then gently plant in its new home.

So how do we prevent this issue while still being green and conserving our container soil as much as possible?  In a dirt garden, we would mulch the soil, but even there we don’t mulch until the soil warms.  In a dirt garden, you can also turn the soil over three times, at intervals of 10-15 days prior to planting, but we already know that destroys soil ecosystems.  In both dirt and container gardens, you  can solarize your soil by covering it with black plastic mulch for a week or two.  Then turn all the, shall we say, unplanned plantings under.  This also disturbs the soil ecosystem though perhaps not as much as multiple tillings.

In our containers, we can add new soil to just the top of our containers, making sure to add at least three inches of new soil, earthworm castings or well-aged compost.  We can also embrace the adventure of mystery seedlings, trim or move them as necessary and see what happens.   

Take advantage of this inevitable cavalcade of seedlings with your herbal pots.  I have not planted cilantro, parsley or basil for several years now.  I let it flower as it will, and  voila, perpetual  pungency for my pantry!   

 

 

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