Time to gear up for spring planting

Racks of seed packets are once again available in the stores so it is time to think about bedding-out-plants.

Jiffy-7 Peat Pellets one of several options to start your darling plants.

Jiffy-7 Peat Pellets one of several options to start your darling plants.

Racks of seed packets are once again available in the stores so it is time to think about bedding-out-plants.

While seeds will not be planted for a couple of months, it is time to start collecting the necessary items such as pots.

Recycled pots, or other plastic containers are popular for starting plants. They are economical and work well as long as the containers have holes for drainage and are clean. Wash all recycled pots before using them and dip them in a weak bleach solution to ensure that all fungus and diseases are eliminated.

The green movement has given consumers more choices in environmentally friendly pots. All the pots that decompose in the garden are porous which allows moisture to escape through the sides; expect to water more than when using plastic pots.

Keep all decomposable pots on trays. Handle the individual pots carefully if they are wet because they will rip easily. Plant the pots directly into the ground when they are saturated, making sure all the pot is covered. Keep the soil around the new planting wet until the roots have made their way through the pot and into the surrounding soil. If the pot is allowed to dry it will form a barrier between the roots and surrounding soil. Parts of the pot that are above the soil will act as a wick and draw moisture from the pot which in turn will decrease the chances of the roots penetrating the pot.

Jiffy pots, made of compressed peat, are the oldest type of pots made from natural materials. They are available in round or square pots and in sizes ranging from 2½ to 3½ inches. The approximate cost of a three-inch square pot is 17 cents.

Jiffy-7 Peat Pellets are sold as a button-like disc. Once they are placed in water they expand and become soft lumps of peat held together by a fine net. Seeds and cuttings grow well inside these pellets as long as they are kept moist and fertilized. The cost of one pellet is about 21 cents. A Coir Fiber Grow Pellet which costs about 20 cents.

Coir pots and grow pellets are similar to peat except they are made out of ground coconut fibre; a readily renewable resource. Pots are available from 2¼ to four inches with a three-inch square pot costing about 31 cents.

CowPots are the new natural fibre on the market. Manure is contained, treated and dried. It is then pressed into odourless plant pots. Three- or four-inch square pots are available. The three-inch pots cost about 71 cents.

Fiber Paks are thick containers made from compressed wood fibres. These containers are large and can hold a number of plants.

Unlike peat, they will not break down in soil and can be reused but are hard to sterilize.

Viropotter is a form available that uses newspaper and patented folding techniques to form pots. This type of pot takes time, patience and some crafting skill.

Expect more environmentally friendly pots on the market in the future.

At present there are companies in England and Australia looking for distributors for their bio-degradable pots and planters that look like classic pots and planters.

Look at all the varieties available and choose a container that fits into your budget and lifestyle.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at your_garden@hotmail.com.