Potty-O-Gardening requires a recycled container--the most common
having been previously utilized for toilet facilities. Suitable
containers vary from wire mesh hanging baskets to bushel baskets,
gallon cans, wooden boxes or even such oddities as old hats, Styrofoam
coolers, and discarded toilets. The best container to use is the
one which fulfills your requirements of size, portability, endurance
and cost. Optimum container size will vary according to the plant
to be grown. Obviously a lettuce plant can be grown more successfully
in a very small container than can a dwarf peach tree. The ultimate
size of the plant being grown should be directly correlated with
the size of container used. The size of the container, plant size,
container location and the choice of soilless mix will determine
the frequency of watering and intensity of cultural management.
Obviously, a larger container with a greater quantity of potting
mix will retain more water, fertilizer elements, etc. than a smaller
container. However, the larger the container, the less portable.
Regardless of the container chosen, adequate drainage is a key
to success. A soilless mix which drains rapidly should be used.
Ideally, when you pour water around the base of a Potty-O-Gardening
plant, water should soon be coming out of the bottom of the potty.
This not only indicates proper drainage but also enables leaching
of fertilizer salts which, if accumulated, can damage a plant's
roots. Soilless mixes should be soilless-- absolutely no soil!
Regardless of how wonderful you think your soil is, when soil
is put in a container it loses many of its beneficial qualities.
Soil in a container compacts which causes poor drainage and insufficient
aeration. Microorganisms such as nematodes and pathogenic fungi
may also contaminate the root system of the porta-plant if non-pasteurized
soil is used. Many suitable types of soilless mixes are commercially
available. A soilless mix should be disease and weed-free, retain
adequate moisture after watering yet is well-drained and lightweight.
You can mix a soilless growing medium of 50 percent organic materials
(one-half peat moss and one-half shredded bark), 25 percent perlite
or vermiculite for drainage and aeration and 25 percent washed
Once you have formulated or purchased a well-drained soilless
mix in which to grow the Potty-O-Gardening plant, be sure that
the container being used has adequate drainage capabilities. If
a water-tight container is being used, drainage holes will have
to be drilled. A 3- to 5-gallon container should have at least
four drainage holes. One hole in the bottom of the toilet well
is sufficient but drilling that one hole will present a real challenge.
Use a masonry drill bit and careful drill the 3/4 inch or larger
hole. BE CAREFUL not to strike the porcelain structure or it will
crack and shatter. Don't worry about lining the bottom of the
container with course gravel or charcoal to expedite drainage.
Recent research indicates that such a gradient in materials actually
impedes drainage. If a loose soilless mix is used, water drainage
through drain holes will not be a problem.
Potty-O-Gardening plants require adequate fertility for vigorous
growth and, if you are growing fruit and vegetables, high yields.
Soilless mixes are lacking in sufficient nutrient elements for
optimum plant growth. Fertility can be provided in two ways. The
most common technique is to periodically water with a fertilizer
solution. Commercially prepared, water-soluble formulations are
available in local nurseries. Follow label directions when mixing
solutions. A home-made nutrient solution can be made by dissolving
two cups of a complete garden fertilizer (No weed-and-feed formulations,
please!) such as 10- 20-10, 12-24-12 or 8-16-8 in one gallon of
warm water. This solution will be your base solution. From this
base solution you will prepare the porta-plant nutrient solution.
To make the actual nutrient solution with which to water, mix
two tablespoons of the base solution into one gallon of water.
Never sprinkle granular fertilizer in porta-plant containers;
plant damage can occur.
Fertilization requirements differ according to the type of plant
being grown, soilless medium used and growing location. Lettuce
is a good example; if lettuce is not grown with high levels of
fertility available, the leaves produced will be extremely bitter.
For the latter group of high-maintenance-fertility plants, I recommend
the use of slow-release fertilizer pellets mixed into the soilless
medium at planting time or applied around an established plant.
This is in addition to the use of water-soluble fertilizer several
times weekly. Use the longer release (3 month) formulations of
the slow-release fertilizer pellets and follow label instructions
for application or mixing. Research indicates that constant feeding
(using water-soluble fertilizer) plus the addition of slow-release
fertilizer produces a better plant. It seems that slow-release
formulations insure that optimum nutrient elements are available
during periods of potential deficiency when soilless mixes have
dried after being watered with the standard nutrient solution.
Slow-release fertilizer is also a good, cheap insurance against
memory loss-- we might forget to fertilize often enough! Also
remember, porta- plants are like children--as they get larger
they require more feeding. A full-grown, heavily loaded tomato
plant in a container needs a water-soluble fertilization treatment
Potty-O-Gardening plants have the disadvantage of a limited,
confined root system. Because culturing plants in containers severely
limits their root spread, frequent watering and fertilization
are essential. As emphasized earlier, the well-drained soilless
mixes--necessary for good aeration--need frequent watering. As
plants grow larger, more watering is required because water is
being absorbed and transpired. As temperatures increase more water
is evaporated from the mix and transpired from the plant. Young
porta-plants growing in cool weather may require watering only
once every two or three days. Check the moisture level of the
mix with your finger before watering, i.e., water the mix, not
the plant. If you feel moisture with your finger DO NOT WATER;
more plants are killed by over watering than by being too dry.
Larger producing plants may require watering two or three times
a day. Remember, container size and soilless mix used will have
a lot to do with the watering regime followed.
The same principles of success which govern perma-growing in
soil apply to Potty-O-Gardening growing in containers. If the
plant's requirement is a full-sun (8-10 hours daily) condition,
a porta- plant of this type will not perform at the optimum if
grown in the shade--regardless of the love and care provided.
Also remember that a porta-plant can shade itself and should be
rotated periodically to insure exposure of the entire plant to
the full sun condition so that uniform foliage and fruit formation
will occur. If a foliage plant or flowering plant such as begonia
requires a partial shade growing condition, putting such a Potty-O-Gardening
planted plant in a full sun condition dooms it to failure. Follow
plant tag recommendations for light requirement. Generally, those
plants which produce an edible fruit such as tomato, pepper, eggplant,
blackberry, peach, apple, etc., require the full-sun condition.
Those plants which are grown for foliage such as herbs, leafy
crops (lettuce, cabbage, greens, spinach and parsley), caladiums,
coleus, etc. tolerate or require shading. Flowers have different
requirements depending on the kind. Placement of Potty-O-Gardening
plant containers is also very important. Even if a plant requires
a full-sun condition, afternoon shading of the intense western
sun may be beneficial. Also remember the wind. Wind can be devastating.
One should also consider only those plants which will offer maximum
benefits from a limited growing space. For instance, the Potty-O-Gardening
plant grower of vegetables should consider the fact that crops
such as broccoli, celery, collards, green onions, herbs, Japanese
eggplant, kale, mustard, parsley, pepper, spinach, Swiss chard
and tomato offer multi-harvests over a long period of time. Conversely,
cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, lettuce and radishes are a one-time
harvest. However, the aesthetic value of certain plants must also
be recognized as well as their production potential. For instance,
carrots are a one- time harvest crop but the beauty of the fern-like
carrot tops make them a super ornamental porta-plant as well for
several months during their growing season--even for interplanting.
Likewise, the genetic dwarf fruit trees produce only one crop
per year but their large green, dense foliage make them a rival
of any ornamental during the non-fruitful period. Flowering plants
should also be evaluated for foliage as well as bloom potential
After selecting the best variety, you must carefully avoid over
planting. Recall how large the plant will be at maturity. Balance
and number of plants is especially critical in a hanging basket
or a container which is to be moved regularly. Excessive weight
on one side of a porta-plant caused by an increasing fruit load
could be disastrous. Pruning can help. Hanging baskets pruned
into a ball-shape are more attractive than baskets with vines
hanging long and unrestrained. Periodic pruning encourages more
side shoot growth and promotes a thicker, more attractive plant.
Tall growing plants in wooden baskets, boxes or cans should also
be supported. Tie the stems to stakes or enclose them in small
cages of concrete reinforcing wire. The size and height of cages
are determined by size and height of the container and the mature
size of the plant. Such support makes the porta-plant more compact,
more attractive and, most importantly, easier to move.
Other common sense cultural practices must be exercised with
Potty-O-Gardening plants, just as with perma-plants, if success
is expected. The timing of plantings can make the difference between
success or failure. Plant tomatoes after the temperatures of summer
have become excessive and you are guaranteed failure. Plant caladiums
too early in the spring and the bulbs will rot in the pot. Plant
lettuce late in the spring and it will produce a flower spike
surrounded by leaves as bitter as quinine.
Potty-O-Gardening plants will be attacked by the same insects
and disease organisms that attack perma-plants. Most egg-laying
insects have wings and most disease organisms are wind-blown so
just because your Potty-O-Gardening plant is hanging or mobile
doesn't mean that it can escape. Inspect plants periodically for
the presence of insects feeding on foliage and fruit as well as
Potty-O-Gardening plants are completely dependent on the grower
for correct amounts of water and nutrients. A perma-plant in the
soil can be neglected for several weeks and Mother Nature's water
and nutrients will probably carry the plant through. The Potty-O-Gardening
plant is a different story--neglect the plant for even a day and
you can kiss it goodbye. It will die! But because of this life-
or-death bondage between grower and plant, because of this daily
interaction, the Potty-O-Gardening plant becomes the most precious,
loved plant of all. All of the work and worry culminates as you
harvest and bite into the first, red-ripe tomato of the season.
When you do, you know, without a doubt, that you grew this--it
would not exist without your love and determination. And, most
importantly, you have made a productive produce garden out of
a once discarded-as-worthless item. Potty-O-Gardening forever!!!!!