Tips for Easy Potting

Keep triple mix and potting soil in lidded containers, neatly tucked underneath your potting bench. Place a trowel or soil scoop in each container for convenient potting. Have a small tabletop composter on your potting bench. When you’ve completed your potting tasks, simply empty the organic matter into your larger compost bin. Check out our article called “Should I add worms to my compost bin?”

Keep a small broom and dustpan handy to clean up spilled soil. Think cool and dry when it comes to seed storage – moisture, heat, and temperature fluctuations shorten seeds’ shelf life. Keep seed packets in airtight containers, such as glass jars, Mason jars or zipper bags. Wrap bulbs in newspaper and store in a cool, dark spot. Make sure that your bulbs are labeled.

Tips for Tidying and Storing

If you’re shelling out top dollars for good-quality tools, you expect them to last. To keep them pristine, gently tap the tools after use to remove any leftover debris. Use a brush or a dry cloth to remove dirt from the blades and hinges (be careful of sharp edges). Clean your metal tools by dipping them in a bucket of sand mixed with a little bit of lightweight machine oil. Wipe the tools clean and hang them on pegs.

Keep pots clean (and free of mold and fungus), so your plants can start with a healthy base. Use a scrub brush to loosen and remove dirt, then soak the pot in a bleach solution (a small amount of bleach diluted with water) for two to three minutes; rinse well with water. This sanitizing solution removes any bacteria or insects that may have been left on the planter. Let it dry completely before stacking for storage or using it to plant.

To prevent terracotta and unglazed ceramic pots from cracking, wrap them (clean and completely dry) in bubble wrap and then burlap to keep them dry when not in use.

To avoid dangerous trips and falls, wind up hoses and cords, and corral long-handled garden tools. Use heavy-duty wall-mounted hooks to hang them out of the way.

Recycle plastic pots or find out if your local garden center will reuse them

Tips for Repotting Houseplants

It’s easy to ignore houseplants when the weather is balmy, and the vegetable patch needs weeding. But once the cold weather arrives, it’s reassuring to glance at your Christmas cactus and discover, despite your neglect, a fresh crop of buds, ready to burst open during the darkest part of the year.

You may also notice roots coming out of the pot’s drainage holes, yellowing foliage, or new leaves that are smaller and farther apart than usual. Any or all of these clues might be a warning that it’s time to repot your houseplant and give it a fresh start.

To do this, you’ll need a bag of fresh potting soil; a clean, sterile pot no greater than two sizes (about two inches or five centimeters) larger than the current one; and a trowel.

How to care for potted plants?

Water the plant thoroughly 24 hours before repotting. Then, to remove the plant, place one hand across the soil surface, hold the bottom of the container with the other hand and turn the pot upside down. Give the pot a sharp, upward jerk; the plant should easily slip away.

Inspect the root ball. If only a few roots are visible at the edges, the plant doesn’t need repotting. However, if many white ones are winding around the exterior, tease them out with your fingers to untangle them. Cut back any that are excessively long by as much as two-thirds.

Some plants may be so pot-bound that it’s impossible to unravel the mass of roots. Give them a quick root prune by making five evenly spaced vertical cuts (about two centimeters deep) from the top of the root ball to the bottom. This slices through the overgrown roots, stimulating new growth. Alternatively, use a large, sharp knife to divide the plant into two to four pieces and separately repot each piece.

Add enough soil to the container, so the plant sits at the same level it did in the original one. Center it in the new pot, and fill in the sides with fresh soil. To avoid creating air pockets, tamp down the soil as it’s being added, and fill to about three centimeters of the rim. This will allow water to pool rather than overflow the top.

Irrigate the plant well with a one-quarter-strength solution of transplanting fertilizer (10-52-10) and trim away any yellowing or browning leaves or gangly branches.

How to rejuvenate large potted plants?

Mature indoor plants, trees and shrubs require repotting less frequently than plants in smaller containers. Top-dressing plants annually in late winter postpones the need for repotting and is much less demanding.

Before top-dressing, water the plant well 24 hours in advance. Loosen and remove the top six to eight centimeters of the soil, and as much as possible from the sides. Refill the pot—tamping down as you go—with the fresh potting mixture until the soil reaches its original level—water well.

Design a Dedicated Potting Area

Who likes to rummage around under bikes and recycling bins in the garage, looking for a favorite trowel? That’s why a perfect spot to pot up plants, propagate seeds, and arrange flowers tops so many gardeners‘ wish lists. Whether indoors or out, efficient storage, a work surface, and tools close at hand make us happy.

My potting room is inside, and it’s everything I’d ever hoped for. Built-in storage, French doors, vintage pottery, botanical art, and lots of colors help the room fit in with the rest of the house. This is where I start seeds in late winter and arrange garden flowers during summer.

On the other hand, my friend Olivia Garcia has an outside potting area adjacent to her enormous, informal country garden. Located under the shelter of mature trees, it’s where she plants large containers in spring, hangs flowers to dry in late summer, and displays her collection of antique tools, baskets, and containers. This charming space blends seamlessly with Olivia’s garden and is easy to tidy up with the sweep of a broom.

How to set up an indoor potting area?

When renovating our house, I campaigned for a separate room to store pots, vases, hand tools, and a place to grow seeds under lights and arrange flowers. It wasn’t a hard sell—it meant less mess in the kitchen and more room in the garage. Although practicality was paramount, my potting area also had to be attractive and neat because it’s visible from the dining room.

I started with a clean slate, which meant I could customize the space for my needs. I measured storage baskets and had shelving built to fit their height; the shelves above the counter are spaced to accommodate tall vases. Electrical outlets are positioned so banks of grow lights can be plugged in. Centered on the counter that runs along one wall, a large, deep, fiberglass sink, with a gooseneck faucet, makes filling pails and large vases a breeze.

Working with water, plants, and soil often results in a mess. I chose a tinted concrete floor, a less expensive option than slate or tile, and has no grout ridges to catch plant debris and soil when sweeping up.

My potting room isn’t large (12 by six feet or 3.7 by two meters) and has three doors and a window that break up the walls, so my mantra became Maximize every centimeter.

Shelving goes right up to the eight-foot-high ceiling (2.5-meter); a footstool enables me to reach the top shelf. Open shelves above and below the counter are less expensive than cupboards and more spacious. Heavy-duty iron hooks along one wall hold hats, aprons, and jackets, and eliminate the need for a closet.

There’s truth to the old adage, A place for everything and everything in its place. For example, labels on baskets and around the necks of canisters that contain fertilizers and floral preservatives make tidying up quicker.

The storage baskets below the counter are easy to pull out. Cotton twill curtains in a soil-friendly color hang below the counter to hide a bin of soil, pots, and miscellany.

Outdoor Potting Tips

With no walls, floors, or ceilings to construct, outdoor potting areas are practical, efficient, affordable, and easily achievable. Olivia Garcia’s space has plenty of style as well, thanks to her flair as a floral designer. She collects vintage garden implements that help transform her workspace into a beautiful garden focal point.

Located near her garage on her back deck, Olivia’s outdoor work area has wooden shelves attached to the walls of the house and garage to hold small pots and tools. There are hooks on the ends of benches and on plant screens and trellises for drying bunches of flowers and hanging small tools. The L-shape configuration of the potting table and storage bench keeps everything close at hand, yet when more room is needed for bags of soil or large pots, it’s easy to slide the potting table farther along the deck. Olivia fills her watering cans from an old wine barrel, positioned under a downspout that collects water from the roof of her studio.

Protecting a work area from water and soil spills is less of a priority in an outdoor potting room, but there are other practicalities to consider.

Set up your space in a spot protected from the sun and strong prevailing winds.

Have a water source nearby. Olivia Garcia fills watering cans from a barrel; if you’re using a hose, it can be a tripping hazard, so make sure it can be coiled out of the way for safety’s sake.
Securely seal bags of soil, soil amendments, and fertilizers to keep out critters and rain.
Use your imagination to repurpose existing items. A child’s wagon holds plants ready for repotting, while an old wire basket with milk bottles holds cut flowers waiting to be arranged.

Emma’s Potting Essentials:

  • Waterproof jars for seeds
  • Spray bottle
  • Pump bottles of hand soap and hand cream
  • Four- or six-packs for seed starting
  • Peat pots
  • Soft, narrow brushes for cleaning vases
  • Marker for writing on plant labels
  • Blank notebook
  • Calendar
  • Shallow tray
  • Hooks (lots of them)
  • Larger, stiff-bristled brush for cleaning clay pots
  • Clock n Timer for grow lights
  • Small flower snips
  • Florist tape
  • Waterproof apron
  • String/twine holder
  • Ruler
  • Small bamboo stakes
  • Rooting powder
  • Transplanter solution
  • Basic balanced fertilizer, such as 5-5-5 or 10-10-10
  • Blank plastic plant labels
  • Heat mat
  • Plant trays with clear domed lids
  • Dibber