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Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Posted by Forest_of_Houseplant (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 5, 14 at 11:45

I have an old clay (curved bottom --no drainage holes) dish garden pot about 5 in high, 13 in wide that has decades old ivy-pothos-etc mixed up vines of 3 types growing out of it and entwined over a metal and glass multi-shelved 6 foot tall shelf.

The clay pot from dissovled salts in fertilizer I've used roughly monthly over decades until I stopped doing that caused the clay pot to have leaching spots, not so bad, but now one whole back edge has cracked through and through top to bottom, so the question is simply, now ---how does one subsitute out the existing dish garden and put in a new one when the vines are all entwined over the metal parts of the shelves? Cutting it off would kill the plant separating roots from the leaves, some of the sections of vines are bare only because the new ones blocked light from the old ones.

I've discovered that short of buying a full new "dish garden" a search of the web does not produce anything shallow like this and wide that is sold "empty" for replaceing dish gardens (there are two more that I could do with replacing but they don't have the vine problem this does so I could use 3 dish gardens from some source). but the garden store only sells them filled, not empty!

Thanks for all your help!

Forest_of_Houseplants


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

I don't know where to buy something like that but at least you have drainage in it now.

Put a dish under it to catch the water.

Try looking for something for food use rather than plants, maybe a large salad or serving bowl would work for you. You really should use something with drainage though.


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

If you did buy a glass bowl, you can take it to a glass supplier & they would probably drill a couple of holes for you.


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Thanks for the suggestions dellis326 and christine1950!

Crack is angled from top to bottom, its not the drainage I'm worried about, its the chance the whole piece will "fall out" one day followed by the very lose--not compacted after all these years --potting soil mix they used! Shelf is just 12 in wide so of course there is no way to catch the soil by a dish under the larger 13 in dish----

I assumed keeping the original mix vs my Miracle-Gro et al potting soil is what kept the soil light and airy enough not to create problems with water drainage---I use a water meter so I know when water is left at bottom and wait until its dry too before next watering....

Hmm glass bowl? Always have plants in glass jars with water taking root and love watching the roots grow, here I'll see the roots growing in a see through garden!

Still don't know how to safely switch the two bowls without killing off all the vines (20 feet or more some of them I guess wrapped around over the years I kept re guiding them over same areas to make dense foliage ---never thought about the day that I'd have to repot it!

Thanks for the ideas!


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

OK, an interesting problem. Here's what I'd do if I had that situation. First I'd make me up a batch of Al's gritty mix - you'll find it at http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/contain/msg0114393114038.html, among other places.

Then I'd get a new pot. It should be ok to get something a little bigger, in fact, it would probably be a good idea. You could probably search for a bonsai pot on line that would work, but they're really expensive. You could get empty dish garden containers from a floral supply wholesaler, or a florist might order you some. Problem with those is that they have no drainage. You really need a drainage hole; theoretically it is possible to get a hole drilled in a ceramic container if you can find someone with the right tools. You might poke around the local garden stores or big box stores to find something suitable, or repurpose some kind of cooking or storage container. You might even use a basket lined with heavy viscreen.

So now, with new soil and pot in hand, I would first make sure my plant had been watered the day before, so soil is well hydrated. I'm sure you can lift up the pot at least a little bit, enough to slide several thicknesses of newspaper or brown paper bag under, nice big wide pieces. Take a hammer and gently crack the old container, carefully lift away the broken pieces. If the roots are developed enough to hold the shape of old pot, you might want to some gentle root pruning.

Then -- you might want another pair of hands to help you here -- lift up the plant by holding the paper around the roots, and slip the new pot under it. Set the plant down onto the new pot, work the paper out, and go about settling the new potting medium around the roots.

One other thing. I would be very uncomfortable with fertilizing so much. With no drainage, you're lucky you didn't get severe damage from high salt content. If you have drainage, monthly fertilization is acceptable, but with not drainage, 3 or 4 times a year should be the max.

Let us know what you decide to do, and send some pics.


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Quick rambling response to theficuswrangler:

Great suggestions! Kudos all the way on these ideas....
Not really sure that the roots would hold the dirt together (its really lose loamy stuff) too bad they don't have "feel" yet for PDF files or I'd message you a sample..

Thanks for the link to Al's gritty mix...and link within it too.

I don't know where to get many of the items (turkey granite whats??? isn't granite a rock?) but someone has a substitute that is expensive ----I tried Bonsai once.... all gone they grew too fast for pruning!!) Maybe I can find that mix since its just for one pot now.... (but I do have some store brought plants recently I'm wondering if I should replace their cheap mixture with something like this to keep them healthy)..

If these florists sell thousands (?!) of dish gardens (given many as gifts) without drain holes, how do the plants survive or is it just done for those who have no green thumbs and a hole would just ruin their nice table they put it on? Just thinking differently now...

I've been using Miracle Grow mostly out of frustration and figured they sell so much they can't be all wrong ----too many plants needing care of one kind or another all year long, I don't mind just want successes rather than the ones that don't look like the ones in hothouses/greenhouses run by professionals!

Oh by the way if I post elsewhere do you (by your handle) have any advice about my 6 foot tall braided weeping Ficus tree (I'm the one crying the Tree is OLD! with many problems its just sentimental vs getting a new one like movie "Mr. Robert's" Potted Palm tree) ?

It goes against what I did for (and parents and grandparents before me) did for decades.... with these same plants.... they fertilized 12x a year no matter what the season.

But then we noticed that without SUN in dark areas of a store we frequent....plants were growing like crazy! Their secret? They use water FRESH out of the tap! We let out water sit in bottles to get any thing bad out of it (without saying where I am I'm one of the few new water treatment plant service areas that uses something else other than chlorine in the water so chlorine is zero).... Only water, not a drop of fertlizer so any damage you see later in photos is all from the fertlizer and since then been using tap water only....

Like I said I just rushed this out to you so you know I got it... will wait until daylight for taking some pics as I can do that (other postings actually have photos, one I posted already may show a corner of the dish garden but I'll get better views and angles ... and spread some sample soil out on a paper for you to observe as well... not many leaves where the pot is but strong trunks of the vines having grown there since 1980s.

That's all for now.... thanks again!

Forest


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Forest -- Don't worry about pics of the soil, but TouchPDF -- now that's something I'd buy in a hurry. If you can invent it, I guarantee you'll be a billionaire in a year.

I'll bet when you get the old pot off there, you'll find a sold mass of roots around the outside. If the vines are that big, and they've been in that pot for several years, the roots have to be there. In fact, come to think of it, you probably won't be able to do root pruning, unless you can find some root ends.

Regarding the gritty mix, if you look around on the forum, or just ask people, you'll find a number of alternative materials people have used. Turkey grit is crushed stone that poultry have to eat because they have no teeth; the grit is in their gizzards, where their food goes to get "chewed up" by the stone before it goes to the stomach. (I know these things because I grew up on a poultry farm.)Oh yea, you can get it at a feed store.

About dish gardens, yes, you've got it right. They're not sold for plants that people can grow, but a longer lasting alternative to cut flowers. That's why they typically put plants with completely different needs together -- it's all about looks, not horticulture

The reason some people, like yourself, can keep at least some of the plants alive is that, whether by luck or design, they don't give them so much water that the soil stays wet, but enough for them to live.

MiracleGro is OK. You might want to look for the kind with a 3-1-2 formulation, like 24-8-16. Fertilizer is one of the areas of plant growing where there are several different approaches. If you use a potting mix like the gritty, and the plants are outside, you might want to fertilize every watering; if the plants are indoors in low light, you might fertilize once or twice a year. And everything in between.

One big thing to understand is the relationship between light and water: the less light, the less water (and fertilizer) the plant uses. So those folks who had the nice plants in the dark place probably used a fraction of the water you used for your plants. Nothing magic about the water -- they simply allowed the soil to aerate properly between waterings.

You bring up another interesting topic -- water quality. Many people swear by using distilled water (there are those who say distilled is a no-no, because it has no minerals in it,) or rainwater (that may not be good either - ever heard of acid rain?), or overnight sitting (then again, sitting around allows water to evaporate, but since modern additives are used because they don't evaporate, sitting actually concentrates that stuff) , or only room temperature. My feeling is, if your plants look good and you're happy with them, who is anyone to tell you not to do what you're doing.

My experience as an interior landscaper is water straight from the tap. Although I have heard there is at least one place in the country where the water is so bad the plant company provides its own. Pretty scary for those people.

Stop by my blog anytime http://theficuswrangler.blogspot.com/

Just a thought on your old ficus -- have you ever leached the soil?

Bona Fortuna and Good Gowing to you,
Marlie


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Dear Marlie:

WOW Thanks for all your information about these problems.... you're a real expert!

I'm going to attach my photos to here and some more explanation as well.

I did not grow up on a poultry farm so no idea what granite/grit was for... I seem to remember it from a biology course about birds with gizzards type of stomachs etc.. now that you mention it..

Unfortunatley no longer near anything like a "feed store" here...

Here are the photos of the cracked dish garden:

Hmmm how do others get the words inbetween photos...oh well guess all of them come together by the uploading process sorry...


If you want or think it helpful I can start a new discussion about the Ficus tree as this one is listed under "Replacing cracked clay dish garden"

wonder why only one photo uploads so I'll do separate messages to get the rest!

Photo 1:


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Photo 2: the crack does go all the way to the bottom, I can't turn pot it will break and can't get camera in between the pot and wall, so best view I can show


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Photo 3: Scaly outside of the pot


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Photo 4: better top view showing condition of soil


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Photo 5: Braided Ficus & pot


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Photo 6: Braids only one of three is alive.


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Photo 7 Top of the 6 foot Ficus


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Photo 8 closer view of another branch lower down


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Ok Marlie here's more of the poor tree's story:

It puts out new leaves but only after dropping an exact number of old ones. I read that light has everything to do with how many leaves.. but its in a southern facing greenhouse with huge windows.

Another effect is that its constantly fighting off infections of aphids? or spider mites the ones that build small white waxy nests by the joints in each and every leaf.

I use Safer brand Insecticide in the spring/summer/fall to spray the whole plant several times a month.... but they come back as I seem to miss some..

I find that hand killing them in the winter using alcohol and Q-tips on each and every leaf is most effective and I get new growth the best during the winter! (go figure).. Most of the leaves you see are quite new! Shiny and clean too---no dust I wipe that off...

I keep trying.... I managed years ago when it was in a different pot, to get it into the larger pot its in now, with some root pruning, but now its just too heavy and too large to wrangle into an even bigger pot with new soil..

I've scraped off the soil and replaced it two or three times as best I can at the top few inches down..

Oh the wood chips are on top of the soil, came with original pot... I washed out with alcohol so killed all the aphids each time I replace the soil so it gets a fresh start...

By the way, the Ficus is the only plant I have that has these waxy nests or is effected by them, others do not have anything to speak of (Aloe has some scale I just clean it off as needed)....otherwise they all look healthy just not growing as strong as I would expect from southern exposure all year..

Thanks again Marlie, for reading and your advice on both of these problems!

Forest


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Recommending WM to anyone for anything is against my, like, religion, but I did see some clay pots that I think are the same thing you described originally, and looked very similar to what I can see in the pics. I was unable to check the price because if I got close enough to pick them up, I would have bought some - and I'm trying to not buy anything until after we move. This forum isn't helping, but that's totally my fault for being so susceptible to visual temptations!

I'm sorry, I have nothing to add about the tree pest thing.


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

OK, Forest, the white scaly stuff on the outside of your pot is salt. It's what left of the fertilizer that the plant doesn't use, and it soaks through the porous sides of terra cotta pots.

For your ficus, hm-m-m. Doesn't look too good does it. Well, the waxy nests in the leaf axils sounds like mealy bugs. That waxy stuff is a coating they secrete to protect themselves, and they are very very nasty little critters. The immature ones are so small you can hardly see them, and they crawl around, and they infest the soil, the edges of the pot, the floor, the walls, the window sills -- that's why it's so hard to wipe them out once they gain a foothold. So when you spray, it might help to spray all the area around the pot, the walls, etc.

As for your particular plant, I think I would try drastic measures, since you can hardly make it any worse. I would wait till June/July, because this would be the optimum time for your ficus to rally and regrow.

First, I would saw/cut/break out the dead pieces of trunk.
Then I would pull 'er out of the pot, and inspect the roots. I would start by dunking the root ball in a bucket of water to gently wash away all the old soil. I think you'll find a very limited number of live and healthy roots. You have rightly noted the relationship between light and leaves. However, there is also something called the "root-to-shoot" ratio; usually this refers to the limit placed on the number of leaves by the requirement of roots to support them. However in your case, I'm thinking that the small number of leaves is reflecting the small amount of roots.

I would prune back the roots to live, healthy parts-- I'm thinking you'll mostly have to cut away dead roots -- and prune back the trunk and the branches also. It's hard to tell from a picture, but I'm guessing cut the main stem back by 1/2, and cut any smaller branches by 1/2 to 2/3.

Get a brand new pot, a 10" pot should be plenty big enough, and your new potting medium -- if you're having a problem finding the ingredients for a gritty mix, you can simply use a bagged cactus mix, and add an equal amount of perlite -- and repot. Make sure not to put the tree any lower in the new pot than it was in the old; in other words, build it up from the bottom with new medium.

Put it outside in a shady spot if at all possible, keep it watered as you have been doing, and sit tight. It should show some new growth in 4 - 8 weeks, if it's going to survive. Don't fertilize for 6 months, if you use regular potting mix, there's plenty of minerals already in there. If you use gritty, you'll want to fertilize as per advice. Ficus benjamina are really tough plants, it could very well amaze you


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Dear Marlie:

Again WOW! Thanks! I wanted to respond right away so you know I read it today (3-12-14) and appreciate your time and effort to help me with this!

The person who gave me the Dish Garden was a very important special person who has since passed on...so when I discard the dish for a new one I can't help but remember that there is an old philosophy theory by Locke, about if you have something--and you keep slowly replacing it part by part with exactly the same thing, but a new one, is it still the same? And when did it cease becoming the old one for the new one.. Guess I'll still have the living plants that survied the shallow garden's (no drainage hole) environment until now to remember them by... So appreicate all this!

Oh my poor Ficus ! Mealy bugs? I've used magnifying lenses all over the tree, and I've never seen them at all, Q: are they all that small when adult?

The pot it is in is 10" now, and from the 80's. I've had someone else teach me about using bleach formulia to thoroughly clean plastic pots and "air dry" off the bleach so I've reused the pots-- Q: If I wanted to "reuse" that same 10" pot...... Q: I assume it would be too shocking for the Tree to be either repotted twice in a day or so it takes to clean out wash and dry with bleach method the pot? Q: Or to leave the soil wet, but sitting the tree outside a pot until the pot is ready---- If you think otherwise then I have some time until June/July to shop for a new pot.

Unfortunately its in a formal entranceway---lots of finished wood and carpet and things that the Safer formulia says "do not spray it on these items"! So I usually have been protecting the other surfaces with newspaper and avoiding to spray them or hauling the poor Ficus outdoors to do that spray job----all the wrong things if those mealy bugs are so hard to eradicate.

You mentioned to use a "cactus mix" ---I have one from another company---(transplanted a baby (2-3 yr old) Aloe using that bag mix and now its turning brown after two months hmmm Q: wrong transplanting season?) but the soil that the Ficus seemed to be growing in before I replaced it with Miracle-Grow ones was some type of good thick tropical type---not the sandy cactus soil----but if your experience (I only have the "one") says that's better for the Ficus I'll try my bag (can look up name if you want to know it) (The Ficus sits in a beige designer pot as they call it with hidden drainage system so it looks sleek, guess I'll have to look for a pot to fit in with the entrance area, with separate dish like the rest).

Oh one other thing---I don't put any of the indoor plants outdoors for fear that they would do what they have already done---bring some weird bug indoors that borrowed its way into the soil so spraying it does not kill it on the surface of the soil---is being outside important? I do take the plant outside by the door on sunny warm days to get a bit more sun than the 10 to 4 pm or so sun it gets from the entrance foyer.

I could put it in the greenhouse area but then I can't enjoy it as much or have it in the entrance area you see..??

Sitting back after I do all that work and watching the plant grow (waiting for it to amaze me!).....

My reply is more my "musings" than actual questions---I could circle or "Q" before the questions if there is any confusion... maybe I'll do just that....

Thanks again!
Forest


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Sorry pupleinopp, I'm not up on abbreviations for plant people (considering I have so many I should be better) what is WM?

Thanks again for reading (sorry I can't help you either with how tempting it is to go to local greenhouse store and so many new pots---costing so much $$ ---I recycle my pots to keep me from buying new ones I have so many (hundreds) lying around. But now that I know how to recycle them using bleach---but I have clay pots with salt lines on outside---guess they are goners even if whole---other than using them for bottom layer in new repotting is there any hope for those? I could use another 6 in pot if I could clean it up somehow its otherwise ok...

Thanks


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Sorry duplicated message here

This post was edited by Forest_of_Houseplant on Thu, Mar 13, 14 at 14:22


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Forest -
You can clean and re-use clay pots that are encrusted with salt. Scrub the salt off the outside first with a brush, then soak the pot in a bucket of water, changing the water several times to soak out the salt.

You do ask some great questions. Here's a site that shows many pics of mealy bugs, and lots of good info. http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/mealybugs.htm

Re: ficus pot, there's no reason not to re-use the old one if you treat it thoroughly with bleach - that'll knock out the little suckers (literally little suckers, that's how they feed on your plants.) By the way, there's no reason to take your plants outside, plants can live perfectly happily indoors all the time. However, the bugs that commonly infect houseplants don't require the outdoors. They have immature forms that are so small, the can float around on the air as part of the dust. That's why we need to check our plants frequently, to control those little uninvited guests before they set up housekeeping.

No, I don't think that removing the plant from the old pot and letting it sit without any pot for a day or two will be harmful. You could wrap some paper around it to protect it, if you want to. Remember, you're going to be doing a heavy root prune on it anyway.

You don't have to use the Safer product on the surrounding area, any kind of insecticide will work. Talk to a professional exterminator if you want some advice on a product to use. Be sure to get it into the cracks between the board, around the edge of the floor and windows - that's where the little bugs will be.

You can re-use your designer container if you want to by "double-potting," which is the way interior landscapers use containers. Here's a video that tells you about it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG9PImILzh8 You can get a plain plastic grow pot from any nursery or plant store; just make sure it will fit inside your designer container.

Re soil, the "good thick tropical stuff" that you describe sounds like the typical bagged potting soil that one buys in the store, be it MG (Miracle Grow) or some other. While it seems nice, all earthy and rich, and makes you imagine the jungle floor, it's not really the best for creating an optimum potting environment, because it tends to be too dense to allow good drainage. A pot is far different than the outdoor environment, and the soil (or potting medium) responds to different rules.
Improved drainage is why I would recommend using cactus mix rather than plain potting soil, and why I would add a lot of perlite to it, and why I advise strongly against the "moisture retentive" additives that are big right now. Another alternative is "soilless mixes," made of peat, bark fines and perlite; this is what interior landscapers use most of the time.
As for your aloe, that's another question entirely. Why don't you start another conversation with pic of it? I don't think the season would make it turn brown, something else is going on.

Re: light for your ficus, I suggested moving it outside because you want to give it as much light as possible while it's regrowing. Light=food=energy. However, not direct sunshine, a greenhouse sounds like the perfect environment. You don't have to leave it there, you can move it back to the house when it starts to grow out.
Now that I think on it, when you cut back the branches, don't cut so that all the leaves are removed, the plant needs them to manufacture food. You might want to cut just the main branch first, and not cut the side branches till you start to get new leaves.

Plants are a wonderful way for us to maintain connection to memories and loved ones. But the old is constantly being replaced by the new - our own bodies, after 7 years, contain not one cell that was there 7 years before. Yet for all that, we are the same us, and your plants are the same plants. You could use pieces of the old pot as decorative bits when you repot the garden into a new container, if you want to keep those memories.


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RE: Replacing cracked clay dish garden

Hi Marlie:

Yes I'll post new questions so others can benefit from your advice.. (See 1. Peace Lilly Watering delemmna feast or famine? Between a rock and hard place ---and 2. Baby Aloe is not happy back in its original pot)

Thanks for the two links...

Topic: About the You Tube Link:

One is to a You Tube of "The Ficus Wranger" (AKA Marlie) and I'm so honored to have someone with such credentials and knowledge helping me (and all of us here on Garden Web) out here!

I subscribed (whatever that is) to your videos. Kudos to whoever is helping you shoot them as unlike most You Tube amateur videos your Videographer is using panning/tilting, zoom at all the proper points to help your discussions and not take away from them.. Great ideas and excellent animation at the start showing growing Ficus Tree and vignette of yourself.

So I'll be posting something about the Aloe and I discovered your Video:Houseplants #4 if your leaves have brown tips, so I'll be asking some questions about a whole bunch of them with photos If I can do it like you did in You Tube but by still photos so look for them in about an hour..

Topic: About the Ficus:

Thanks for your help about my Ficus and those mealy bugs (unfortunatley, with wall to wall entrance carpeting, double carpets on stairs, old oaken mouldings with lots of nooks and crannies and I have no idea how I could spray them all with Safer or some other insecticide, without ruining them) Sometimes plain water gets on them and I have to clean off fast or else they water spot/warp the wood. Guess its not the best place for that Ficus to be, but it always has plenty of room and sunlight to grow up tall like the huge ones in the malls we see.

So in the Ficus you suggest I cut away the braids that are not growing? I'm worried that the sticks are not strong enough to hold up the plant as the bottoms of the dead braids are still in the soil (see photo above).

Q: Do you also suggest that I cut off any branch with less than a certain number of leaves on it? I have no bare branches left as I've been pruning down over the years if they stay empty for a few months and if brittle too, off they go. So that is why the plant looks bare, but each branch is living, as they have leaves even if only at the tip end showing its trying to put out more leaves.

Topic: About the Double Potting Link:

Yes, I like the idea of the decorative pots and will look in the garden stores for that mossy stuff (I tended to use decorative stone or pine bark chips from the outdoor bags before they are used outside and get insects in them).

Q: Do you know of any link for those extra deep "saucers" of plastic? My local shop had no idea what I was referring to on the phone--I'll have to Email or bring in a photo from the You Tube and maybe they'll know you need a deeper dish so the water does not secretly spill over the sides if you use a shallow dish (oh my! did you get that explanation ?).

I just noticed that in my other posting the Dracina is in a double-pot--from the store--got it as it is--second generation in the pot that's why its so small size compared to the pot--inside there is a plastic liner the size of the pot, no saucer at all! I stuffed shallow plastic one in when I repotted it in same pot after I lost the mother Dracina--will copy this over so you know where it is I'm talking about in the next post.

Sorry this is was not written in perfect order:

Thanks for how to resurrect that clay pot---I need to match a Cast Iron Plant/ aspidistra that I already moved using advice (See Silver Arrow thread under my "Forest_of_Houseplants" name) from another person's post who got one of the two sets out of water/hydroponics into soil in a clay pot, but I need a larger matching pot and that is the one that was there before which has that salt on outside, so thanks again!

Forest


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