May is literally flying by in a haze of deep freezes, wind, rain and more wind. When I wake up to low 40 degree temps, I can’t help but think back to the early days of gardening when I was wooed by a gorgeous weekend in early May and planted my whole garden — only to watch it struggle through the rest of the month. Meanwhile, my experienced friends would wait until the end of the month to plant and I’d watch as their gardens sped pass mine. Now, I’m that experienced person.
(Last year I planted in early May.)
This year, however, I was not to be fooled. Last weekend, as we sped out of town toward Madison for Morgan’s graduation I was feeling pretty smug that I didn’t have to cover all that much up. The forecast called for a “freeze warning.” Not a “frost warning,” mind you; a freeze. So I moved all the pots (that I was able to move) indoors and left. Nothing in the garden was at risk because I was smart this year and only planted the early spring crops: spinach, carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, peas and a few hardy greens like arugula and kale. Of course there were some perennial things like asparagus and rhubarb and lemon balm, but they would be fine.
My personal weather station recorded a low on early Saturday morning of 26.6 degrees. The asparagus was devastated. The lemon balm and rhubarb look like they were burned, but will make it. I can’t blame myself for this, happily. It’s their own fault if they don’t know what May is like in Minnesota.
Not so with the coleus in the giant pots by the pool — my actual subject today, though you can’t tell with this preamble. I covered them well with old bath towels to no avail. They will need to be replanted.
Such is life in Minnesota. I bounced right back because I have been able to assuage my loss with feelings of superiority that I didn’t plant everything like so many sad gardening rookies. Welcome to the big leagues newbs. Someday you’ll be as wise as me.
So anyway. These giants pots.
These. Giant. Pots.
I hate them and I love them so. I have dreams of … I actually don’t have dreams about them. I just wish I could either grow amazing plants that live forever in them or throw them away. But they won’t burn, so they can’t be hauled away — like so many other things — to Dave’s giant burn pile.
Speaking of the burn pile, does anyone want the kitchenette from our small pop-up camper? It’s got this great little sink and working 2-burner propane stove. In the flurry of getting ready for Charlie’s graduation party, it was hauled to the burn pile despite my cries of protest yesterday. I’m still in shock.
And I would be remiss to point out that this ridiculous thing somehow did NOT make it into the burn pile.
Anyway, the pots: I’m stuck with them forever. I could fit two adult humans inside these pots, no problem. If I ever want to kill someone and hide the body, these would do the trick. In fact, next time you are here, just think about that: ARE there perhaps four dead bodies hiding at the bottom of my darling and gigantic pots?
It would be possible, is all I’m saying. I find photos do not do their gigantitude justice, so I’m trying to give you a mental picture.
You are welcome.
…Have been a gigantic pain in the ass since day one. I lusted after them after seeing them somewhere and hunted them down online in the early days of the internet. Oh the things I would grow! Pine trees! (nope. they died.) Ornamental grasses! (nope. they died) Perennial flowering shrubs (nope. they died.) Asparagus ferns! (These actually lived a few years).
The money I’ve spent… The DIRT required… The hoses required to reach the far corner of the pool.
On further thought, maybe I just don’t like pots of any kind. Does anyone else this time of year, as they drag the hoses around the yard, think fondly of January? Does anyone else, when the hose gets caught on the chair, and you patiently put the hose down, walk back, unhook the hose, walk back, pick up the hose, and try to resume watering but there is no water, then look back and see the kink in the hose by the place it was hooked, then fling the @#$%$ hose back down and look up into the sky and scream “FOR THE LOVE…” and try SO HARD not to take the Lord’s name in vain because… that would be wrong and then think “MY GOD MY GOD why have you forsaken me?!” and instantly feel ashamed because, “What the hell? What does poor God have to do with this and for crying out loud, how blasphemous can you get? That’s what Jesus said as he died on the cross. How dare I even think such a thing when thinking about a @#$# kinked hose…”
It’s true people. These are the things that go through my mind when I’m not listening to an audio book. I really and truly need to find a new audio book.
So anyway. Watering pots is a gigantic pain. And these gigantic pots are no exception. But planting them. My gosh… planting them. Or really, UNplanting them… Words simply cannot express to you how utterly taxing this job is. I mean, I know I’m getting old. My body hurts all the time, but. These. Pots…
Last year they performed horribly. I had the brilliant notion of planting mint in them. Mint, along with an asparagus fern — since my last run with asparagus ferns lasted almost three years. And mint! You can’t kill mint, right?
All well and good for the first 2 months. And it’s pretty much true you can’t kill mint. But just so you know: mint can kill asparagus fern. And mint doesn’t really look all that good after it flowers. The pots were truly awful by July. At the end of the season I decided to start over. Again.
I thought a blog post was in order, given that I couldn’t remove the plants from the dirt and had to use a power saw to get through the roots. I’m not kidding. I thought asparagus fern roots were bad. Nothing prepared me for asparagus fern AND mint roots. But I never got around to it. And let it be said here: the pot from last summer in the photo above that I took before sawing the plants out looks a lot better than I remember it looking. I think they must have “come back” a little in the cooler weather of fall…
Fast forward to this week, as I’m dealing with the aftermath of those root balls. Last fall, knowing I would need more dirt than a human mind can conceive of, to refill these pots, I sawed them into chunks and piled them back into the pots. I’m not so dementia-ridden that I had forgotten what I would face as I replanted them this spring, but the back-breaking reality was a shock.
I’ve tried all sorts of strategies to reduce the amount dirt needed in these damn pots. This year I started with an upside-down 30″ pot in the bottom. Then I filled up the empty space with styrofoam peanuts.
Next, I set the brand-new-maybe-this-will-change-my-life Root Bag on top of the pot and peanuts.
I sawed up pieces of last year’s soil/roots and jammed them down the outsides of the root bag and then topped it off with potting soil. I can’t believe I didn’t take pictures but here is what it looked like last fall. I tried saving the ferns, but let me tell you, they are not faring too well in the cage battle with the mint.
Anyway, the idea is that I will pull out the Root Bags at the end of the season and put them in the garage or greenhouse and maybe-just-maybe the new Muhly grass will live. This will prevent me from having to make room for these gigantic pots in the garage in order to save what is planted in them. Yes, yes, I could also just use the 30″ plastic pots in a similar fashion (and I have), but aren’t these Root Bags so cool?? (I got a bunch more fun stuff this year that I’ll highlight in another post.)
The photo below shows where I was at after stuffing all the old dirt down the sides, and filling the Root Bag with potting soil –a lot of potting soil, as the Root Bags are 15 gallons each. Have I clearly conveyed yet just how big these pots are?
It was here that I ran out of potting soil and had to stop. After buying two 55 quart bags of potting soil at Costco for $10 each — thinking that would be enough — I simply could not spend four times that amount for way smaller bags of potting soil elsewhere. (And since I ran out of dirt after doing only two of the pots, that is also why I only lost four coleus plants instead of eight in the subsequent deep freeze of May 15th.)
Planting the rest of the pots was completed yesterday and, in total, took four full bags of 55 quart potting soil — even with the pots already half filled with foam peanuts. I still want to put some type of mulch over the top to hide the rim of the Root Bag, but this will suffice for now.
We’ll see how they do. I hate to say I’m hopeful, because that would be the definition of insanity, but then, why not. We live in Minnesota. We are all insane.