I’m in love with a terracotta pot. I’m not sure if that’s even possible, but the truth is there is one pot in my collection of which I’m especially fond – and each spring when I remove it from its winter storage, it’s like reuniting with a long lost love. I know its curves and warm tones and textures. I accept all of it, even the irregular sizes of its pockets. Yes, the terracotta pot of my dreams is the three-foot tall strawberry pot. And today is the day that I am going to demonstrate my love for it. It’s planting day.
The pot holds a place of honor in the garden, nestled among ferns and hostas and bleeding hearts. It’s tall enough that it provides not only a focal point, but some vertical color in an area of the garden that is heavy with foliage.
Since the pot is very deep, watering is an issue. Yes, I can always water along the outside of the pot, allowing the water to find the pockets and fill in. But for deeper watering, I use an old trick that I picked up from Martha: a PVC pipe with a series of homemade holes.
The tricky part is filling the pot with soil. Since I am right-handed, I cover the top of the PVC pipe with my left hand as I shovel in dirt. Every few minutes, I tamp down the soil. Eventually I reach the first level of pockets.
Planting in a strawberry pot can require some patience as each plant plug is coaxed and eased through the pocket opening. The pockets in this particular pot are slightly irregular. The lower openings are shallower, and so my plants (in this case, Impatiens that I started from seed) are negotiated into place from the inside of the pot.
I make a small depression in the dirt leading to a particular pocket. I then ease the plant into place, and use the dirt in the pot as a cushion. I never place the roots of the plant against the terracotta, which is a porous material, so the roots do not dry out.
Once one level is completed, I water in the plants, and add more soil – always being careful to not drop any into the PVC pipe. Each level is planted in the same manner, except the upper level. In this pot, the upper pockets are slightly larger, and so I can easily plant the roots into the pot from the outside.
When planting a pot like this, it’s also important to know and understand the shape of the pot. Here, there is a hollowed out area just below the neck that needs special attention to guarantee that soil fills it up. This just requires some hands-on TLC by adding dirt and tamping it into the pot’s shape.
At last, the upper most area is reached, and the end of the PVC pipe should be visible above the soil level. Once the plants fill in, the glaring white tube will hardly be visible. During dry weather, your plants will thank you as you take the hose or watering can, and simply aim it into the pipe and fill it up. Water will now seep through the drilled holes and into the deepest of soil.
We, my pot and I, are now able to resume our relationship, our traditions and routines – for a summer of love. Terracotta love.