As I’m writing this it’s pouring with rain and our lawn at home is extremely wet.
It’s stupid to try to do any sensible gardening because nothing looks good and after weeding, the soil surface looks muddy, the tools are clogged with mud and it’s good to get indoors and read The News!
When the weather improves we have to take advantage of a pleasant day and if you have a patio garden and grow shrubs and roses in pots this is an excellent time to repot them.
The good news is that this job can be done at any time between now and the middle of February but you know how things are – we can easily put things aside and the job is never done.
Seriously, when I was an apprentice with Portsmouth City Parks Department when the great director John Studley was in charge, we used to grow several hundred floribunda and hybrid tea roses in pots.
At Leigh Park nurseries Bill Hedges was head gardener and he could root broom handles!
Bill would show us how to pot the roses into clay pots just a bit smaller than a gallon bucket. He would put a layer of broken flower pots in the base and then use John Innes number 3 compost. The completed pots were then set out in blocks on clinker and ash taken from the boilers.
The reason for this is to stop worms entering the base of the pots.
They were left outdoors until the end of February and then brought into the warmth of a greenhouse.
During the middle of May the blooms would appear and the fragrance in that greenhouse was just over- powering, in fact heavenly.
Every year during November the roses were pruned very hard indeed. I wondered if they would survive but they did because the plants were taken out of the pots and replanted in John Innes number 3 compost.
Those roses kept blooming for many years due to the compost being renewed.
To stop worms entering the pots we use little earthenware feet underneath.
People often ask me what is wrong with earthworms entering pots. The reason is that earthworms eat the organic matter in the compost, leaving behind a kind of sludge which becomes waterlogged and the roots are unable to breathe.
What about shrubs and trees in pots? These are best treated in the same way.
Like the roses take them out of the pots, shake off all the old compost, wash the pots and replant into JI number 3 compost and don’t forget those little feet!