Alternative fill

(Zone 4b)

I have large ceramic flower pots. Last year it was suggested the bottom third be filled with styrofoam peanuts. This help lighten the load but the flowers did not do as well as those in containers without the peanuts.

What can I do so the pots aren't completely filled with soil. I will Need to move them periodically.

Thank you for all suggestions and recommendations.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

I was about to use the peanuts to do the same thing. Im glad you posted that they did not do as well. Now I wont try it. I have a couple ideas. One would be to convert the pots to self watering by placing a container in the bottom with a lid. Imagine a tupper ware bowl with a hole cut in the lid. Do not plug up the hole in the ceramic pot so if you overfill the waterer, it has somewhere to overflow. Cut the leg off a pantyhose and use it as a wick down into the tupperware bowl. Insert it thru the hole so it reaches the bottom of the bowl or better. Coil the other end on top of the bowl and start potting your plant. Oh, I forgot, near the top of the bowl, near the lid cut a nickel sized hole so when you are ready to move the pot, just tip it over and let the water in the reservoir drain out. Once the pot is in its new location, water it well to re-fill the reservoir.

The other idea is to just get those plant saucers that are on wheels so you can just roll them where you want them. This only works well on hard surfaces, tho, not so much on grass or the bare ground.

Brady, TX(Zone 8a)

I did basically the same thing. Made a "false bottom" out of any bowl, cup, etc. that fit the bottom of the pot.

small town, MN(Zone 4b)

My sister always used crushed aluminum cans in the bottoms of her pots to keep large pots lighter. She grew amazing containers of mixed flowers of course she was very diligent about fertilizing on a regular schedule.

I tried using the peanuts one year and the squirrels liked to dig them out making a huge mess. Why they would do this is beyond me sometimes it seems like they just get a kick out of frustrating people.

Columbus, OH

I use upside down cottage cheese or deli containers. I've had other spacers, like soda cans, disintegrate and the soil lowers and I had to un-pot and fix the whole thing in August.

Why do squirrels dig in containers? They're destructive little a-holes. lol Does this stop me from liking and feeding ONE particular squirrel in my back yard and despising all the rest? Nope. I know Hazel Nut does not do this sort of thing, she assures me it is true ;)

small town, MN(Zone 4b)

I know my sister did not redo her pots in the same year, she always said the crushed cans also gave good drainage. I can't ask her questions about them as she passed away so I am just recalling what she told me from memory.

You had me laughing with your referal to squirrels, they certainly earned that name. One year my DH was feeding them corn well the stinkers planted it all over in my flower garden and I ended up pulling out corn plants. It can be great fun watching all of their antics, one winter there was three of them playing on our good sized yard barn roof they would jump up in the air landing back on the sloping roof slide down and off into a deep snow bank. They looked like a circus troup doing a show.

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi all,
If you go to the Haybale Gardening forum, ,
you will see that some of our friends use their old straw as filler for growing boxes.
Kent, uses his old bales as a base, then put potting soil on top to grow vegies.
Last fall I gathered leaves and stomped them into some of these rope-handled bins. (It is amazing how many leaves you can get
into one bin.) I let these cook over the winter. I have about 4" of space at the top. I added garden soil and am going to plant tomatoes and such. It is the same idea as the straw, except the resource is free.
Last fall I drilled water release holes up about 2" from the bottom of each bin.
I have a space in the alley behind our home that I am going to build raised boxes, next fall I am going to gather all of our and probably the neighbors leaves, and stomp them into the boxes. Next spring I will have a long narrow growing area to grow whatever I wish.
I am convinced that I can grow 70 to 80% of the fresh food we eat in our family of 7, right here on the property without compromising
living and relaxation spaces.
Pictures to follow!!!

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

There are reasons why drainage layers don't really promote drainage at all, based on simple physics, and you can read about them, and hopefully gain a better understanding about container media and why it should differ so radically from the soils we find in our gardens & beds.

In most cases, "drainage layers" do nothing more than reduce the volume of soil available for root colonization AND raise the level of saturated soil in a container. Example: If a soil holds 3" of perched water, in a container with 10" of soil, the bottom 3" of soil will be saturated completely after a thorough watering. The same soil atop a 3" drainage layer of gravel or packing peanuts will find the upper limit of saturated soil to now be 6" up from the container bottom. The water 'perches' (like a bird) above the drainage layer.

If you're interested, I'll tell you how to reduce the volume of water in the perched water table effectively.

Soils made of straw. leaves, and other materials that break down quickly are going to be difficult to grow in. Not only are there structural issuers that appear as the ingredients rot, but there will also be nitrogen immobilization to deal with, and a significant increase in soil temperatures generated from the composting process (as in a hot compost pile).

If you're interested in learning more about managing container media, I think you'll find the info at the thread I linked to to be of interest.


(Zone 4b)

Thank you for all the suggestions!

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Thanks tapia,
Every time I read one of your posts I learn a ton.
I have already planted my tubs for the season so I will have to adjust my maintenance approach accordingly.

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