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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Potty-O-Gardening at the 2005 Festival of Flowers

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 builder's sand.

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 daily.

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 and persistence.

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 for disease.

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!!!!!