Potting Info







The Volumes of our pots are as follows:
Small Planter : 5dm3/layer; 15dm3 per 3 layers.
Medium Planter; 10dm3/layer; 30dm3 per 3 layers.
Large Planter: 20dm3/layer; 60dm3 per 3 layers.

 A high-quality potting soil is very important to successfully growing plants. While many gardeners simply buy whatever potting soil they find at the nursery, and take their chances, experienced gardeners know that the right ingredients in the potting soil are crucial.

The quality of the soil is usually determined by its texture and fertility.  The texture is related to soil particles and the size of them.  For instance, sandy soil has a texture that allows for aeration with free movement of air and water, while clay particles leave little room because they tend to pack.  Good soil texture is usually a combination of these, made up of sandy loam with plenty of organic matter.   Nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and trace elements like calcium, zinc and magnesium make up the fertility of the soil.  In order for plants to absorb the nutrients, a good balance of the acidity and alkalinity (pH) is necessary.  If your potting soil provides both good texture and fertility, it will make a difference in the health and prosperity of your garden.
If the texture of your soil is too light and porous, your plants will have problems taking root.  If it is packed too hard without enough porosity, the plants will be subjects of root rot.  If the soil isn’t fertile or doesn’t have a good pH balance, the plants will literally starve to death.  
Porosity is a function of particle size; matured granulated bark will achieve the same effect as sand, increasing porosity.
Characteristics of a good mix
The characteristics of a good potting mix are as follows:
1.   It is well drained. In physical terms, this means an air-filled porosity of at least 15 per cent.
2.   It re-wets easily. Some peat and bark media are difficult to re-wet if they dry out.
3.   It does not shrink away from the side of the pot as it dries.
4.   It is the optimum weight; not too heavy to lift, not so light as to blow over easily.
The required conditions for optimal growth: 1. Air in the root zone
                                                              2. Moisture
                                                              3. Nutrients.
So one needs to have a potting mix that is both porous and well drained, but at the same time retains enough moisture to prevent your plants from drying out between watering sessions. Also your mix requires nutrients to feed your plants. 

If it is not possible to make your own mix ... You can usually just start with a commercial potting soil that is nutritious and adequate for most plants and add to it.  This may include adding well decomposed compost, kraal manure or vermicasts (worm castings) and slow release organic fertiliser.  Adding lime may be necessary if the potting soil is too acidic, but this is unlikely where peat moss is not used.  You can, and should, add fertilizer to your containers periodically.  This is important because the nutrients that are in the soil will be depleted as the plants grow. This must be done regularly as a liquid feed, such as Nitrosol, but also as a surface dressing of bounce back or vermicasts.


To achieve a good potting soil mix as described above, I Strongly recommend the use of our starter packs which are designed to add to a 30dms (ltrs) bag of ordinary potting soil.

These packs are only available at shows, and not by mail order, as they are too heavy to justify reasonably priced postage.


1.Place Coconut Coir briquette in a bucket and add  3litres

   water. Leave  for 20 mins; add further small amounts of water

   until the  whole brick has broken down into a loose mixture and there 

   are no hard bits remaining. 


2. Mix all the broken down Coconut coir, along with full

    contents of the Aquasorb crystal sachet and Talborne`s

    slow  release fertiliser with a full 30dm3 (litrs) bag of

    potting soil. Thoroughly mix while still dry.


3. Fill pots and plant seedlings and then water.


4. The Rescue Pellet sachet is kept aside and used as per

    directions on the pack, as a feed for the next few months.


Individual Pot Volumes


        Small: 5dm3/pot.(5x3pots)

               Medium:10dm3/pot. (10x3pots)

                    Large: 20dm3/pot. (20x3 or 4pots)


  I s uggest “watering in” your new plants with a liquid feed,

eg. Nitrosol or similar natural organic fertiliser, and then

feed weekly. Bounce Back or Rescue Pellets dissolved

in water overnight and then diluted makes a great liquid feed.


Commercial Potting Soils.     A lot of so-called "potting soils" are more likely to kill your plants than nurture them .... further, asking the nursery for advice in this field often does`nt help either.  The most common problem is caused by the use of un-decomposed compost as a substitute for the historically used peat moss, which is no longer commercially available. Fully decomposed compost is ideal as a basis for your potting soil, if you have your own, or can get some. As mentioned, most commercially sold composts are immature. Now, when un-decomposed compost is used in your potting soil, the microbe driven breaking down process continues in your pot and in the plant root zone, where the microorganisms compete with the plant for nitrogen. ... the plants invariably become stressed, turn yellow, and growth is stalled. This can be overcome by the addition of extra nitrogen, but it all becomes a bit tricky! Most nurseries with large stocks of plants, feed their plants with fertiliser through their irrigation spray systems .... when these same plants, invariably grown in inert potting soils, are taken to their new homes, and watered with clean water, it is not long before they are struggling with "hunger"... this often remains the case until the plant has developed a new root system in its new soil environment. Hence, feeding your plants in the early stages with a liquid feed in the water is very important ... once a week, at least.  An indicator of the pressence of undecomposed compost (clear to see for the experienced gardener) will be the appearance of white grubs in the soil, curled on themselves with a black head. These are the grubs of the christmas beetle (rose bettle/chaffer beetle) ... they eat decomposing organic matter ... dead matter... and contrary to common belief, do not eat the living roots of the plants. The side effect of their presence, apart from assisting in the breaking down process, maybe to unduly aerate the soil around the roots, so that there is actually too much air, and drainage is too good, so that drying out happens too quickly. Other than this, they are not detrimental, and could be considered beneficial in small numbers, where over aeration does not occur.

Making your own Potting Soil.   There is no exact recipee for this, other than the "elements for good growth" being a product of your mix. 

A suggested mix, is as follows: 


The bulk of the mix, ensuring good drainage:  50% granulated aged bark (or coconut coir).                           
Providing solid organic matter for nutrients:    20% fully decomposed compost.                                                     
Other nutrient-full organic matter:                  10% worm castings/vermicasts or well composted kraal manure.
Water retaining component:                           20% vermiculite. Or add a small scoop of water retaining crystals

MIX B:  Using coconut coir produces excellent water retaining characteristics; I am presently getting great results using this.

Feeding your Planters

Add Talborne`s Vita Veg slow release fertiliser (100gm/20dm3 potting soil) as per instructions, into the potting mix. The fertiliser Bounce Back, may also be mixed in. Feeding regularly (once a week is best if achievable) with a liquid feeder; Bounce Back can also be dissolved, and added as a liquid feed, at least once a week. Nitrosol liquid feeder is another effective liquid feeder.  

The quality and success of your potting soil will be reflected in your plants; if your plants are struggling in any way, have a look at your mix ... dig it up and observe .... is it too dry? is it too wet? etc etc. Often the answer can be found by observing, and an addition of this or that can usually remedy the situation with your next crop. Also. always ensure that they are being fed enough nutrients, either from the soil, or from your liquid feeding program.

If you live in the Cape Town area, I reccomend that you go to Western Cape Seedlings in Phillippi .... not only will you get your seedlings at wholesale prices (half of most nurseries), but they sell a Potting Soil, which is a Bark/Vermiculite mix, which when I have added vermicasts/Kraal manure/mature compost etc,  and Vita Veg (Talborne`s) to it, I have had tremendous success.

Directions to their nursery are shown below:




Container Gardening
This is a transient society we live in. People are changing jobs, moving from one town to the next, one house to another and many times leaving those that they love the most, their plants. Loss of one's loved ones (the plants) can be a traumatic experience and one which is not really necessary if you grow your plants in containers. Even if you're not the rambling kind, keeping plants moveable can offer certain advantages. The mobility of pot plants allows you to move them to protected areas during periods of adverse weather. Such protection enables production during the normal off-season for your area and allows you to grow plants which would be damaged by the cold winter temperatures without protection.


Soil in Containers Should Be a Good Mix


Have you ever grown a plant in a container on your deck or patio only to have the soil dry up as hard as a brick? Most of us can answer with a resounding "Yes!" because it is quite easy to find inferior potting soils in the marketplace. In such poor potting soil, plants will never have a chance to grow well. Plants need a high-quality potting soil -- one that won't pack like a brick creating no through flow  and resulting in water logging and root rot but also not so well drained that it dries up too quickly, not retaining any nutrients for the plant to feed on.


If the texture of your soil is too sandy, your plants will have problems taking root.
  If it is packed too hard without enough sand, the plants will be prone to root rot
  If the soil is not fertile or does not have a good pH balance (neutral), the plants will literally starve to death, silently. Not screaming like our kids when they get hungry!


It needs to retain water effectively,
but not stay soggy.
  It should drain fairly quickly but hold in enough moisture to keep the roots evenly moist.


If I were to take the best garden soil available, and use it as potting mix, my pot plants would not prosper, believe it or not!
That’s because garden soil doesn’t offer enough air, water, or nutrients to a plant growing in a container.
Fortunately, it's easy to amend.
Potting soils should be specifically formulated to overcome these limitations. However, because of the lack of peat moss in South Africa, as the standard water retaining component of overseas mixes, we here in SA  need to add elements to achieve the same result.
Choose a potting soil available at your nursery  that contains coarse material, eg: bark/wood chip or coarse compost and is not predominantly soil and/or sand.


One of the most important things a potting soil needs to achieve is to provide roots with access to air by letting water drain away from them.
In the open ground, the soil is usually deep enough to let excess water drain beyond root zones.
 In pots, however, water tends to accumulate at the bottom, despite drainage holes.
 The smaller the pore spaces of the soil in the pot, the higher that water layer will reach.
 Larger pores, formed by adding bark, other coarse material or mineral aggregates, readily admit water into the soil, then carry it through the medium and out the bottom. Then, all those large, empty spaces can fill with air.


Preparing Potting Soil
If your potting mix is too sandy, then you can add amounts of the following:
To improve drainage :
  Milled bark or coarse compost (containing large bits of wood chip etc)
 Mineral aggregates, such as perlite or vermiculite.
Perlite and vermiculite are lightweight volcanic rocks naturally filled with air. I prefer perlite over the others because it does not decompose with time nor lose its aerating ability if the potting mix is compressed. Vermiculite is a valuable additive because it prevents some nutrients from leaching away, and it even provides a bit of potassium and magnesium.
To retain moisture :
Aquasorb water retaining crystals
Coconut coir
TerraCottem soil conditioner
A potting mix  must also have ingredients that help it retain moisture. This is where organic materials such as coconut coir come in. They cling to some of the water that the aggregates are helping to drain. Organic material also holds on to nutrients that might otherwise wash away, as do water retaining crystals.


Good light is required by all veggies and herbs; it need not necessarily be full sun, but good all round clear sky above type light, if not direct sun.
If positioned against a wall, on a stoep or balcony, so that light comes primarily from one side, the stacks are designed so that all the pots are locked into each other and can be rotated by gripping the top pot and turning to left or right. In this case, it is suggested that you regularly turn the pots by 45deg every few days, to afford an all round share of light to all plants.
The ideal situation would be morning sun and afternoon shade, if one has a choice.
Garden flowers also require good light, but of course if you wish to use your pots indoors, they work as effectively with indoor plants, such as ferns and bromeliads etc.
You can un-stack your stacks at any time, in order to move them to a new position or to change crops.
You can of course change the location for different seasons.
The small pots tend to dry out quicker because they have a smaller volume (only 5Ltrs) in which to hold moisture; for this reason, they are best not positioned in full sun.
The small set can be hung with great effect. A chain can be bought with it which enables you to hang all 3 pots … all you need is a nail or hook to hang it from.
Similarly, the wall hanger set would do best in a mostly sun shaded spot; their volume is only 3ltrs. In the right spot, they can be hugely productive and very beautiful to  behold.


To start with, after you have given the pots their initial soaking, remember that the seedlings have relatively small and tight root balls, with no extended roots. At this early stage, a little water is best directed straight onto the little plant at each watering, to ensure it gets enough moisture. As the roots develop, then general watering is fine.
Your plants will always revive if watered when wilting from thirst, but if they are wilting from overwatering, it may well be a case of waterlogging, and the onset of rot.
Frequency of watering depends on several factors; type of plants, location and time of year etc. Small plants don’t need a lot but can dry out quickly, whilst spinach will drink till long after “closing time”! While herbs can put up with much dryer conditions, spinach needs to have its drink problem attended to, or death ensues!
Provided the potting mix drains adequately, it is not possible to over water the pots; overwatering invariably happens when the mix is too soil sandy and the water fails to pass through it. Overwatering will have the effect of leaching out (washing out) soluble nutrients, which of course is not in itself fatal, but is undesirable.                             
I tend to watch and water as required.
If I am going away or intend to water infrequently, a few gentle waterings over a short period of a half hour, allows the mix to absorb as much as possible, before it rushes on through to the bottom; I can then achieve a saturated situation, as near as possible, with a maximum amount of water being retained by the fully hydrated crystals (I always use crystals) . In this condition, your plants should be able to last for several days to a week in a moderate temperature, and longer in the winter. Rain will alter everything of course!
The Large Stackatubs have a reservoir in the bottom of each pot, which will hold 1.25Ltrs of water/nutrients when full; this water is available to the plants through the 3 protruding slots in the bottom of the black grid. When watering each individual layer, watch for the dripping along the reservoir overflow holes, low on the pot sides, which will indicate that the reservoir is full.
The small and wall hanger sets will need more regular attention, since their smaller volumes will dry out a lot quicker.
It is not necessary to put stones in the pot bottoms, as the overflow naturally goes into the next pot, and once reaching the bottom tray will not waterlog the bottom pot because of its design. However, it is best to remove any water reaching the tray, as it can become stagnant, but remember that it is nutrient rich, having dissolved some nutrients on its way through and should be refed to the pots appropriately.
Your plants can be likened to children, with one big difference … they can’t make a noise!  When our children become hungry they let us know in no uncertain terms! When you feed them wholesomely, they grow handsomely!  The same for Green children … if you feed them well, they grow like Jack’s beanstalk!... but they make no noise when under fed … instead they will slowly shrivel up, stunt and eventually die!! So, when you see your plants struggling, listen carefully and you may well hear them screaming quietly for food!
There are a certain amount of nutrients in the potting mix itself, derived from the compost etc; however this is limited and will be exhausted fairly rapidly.
I recommend mixing into the initial potting mix, bonemeal (promotes root growth) and a slow release organic fertilizer such as Talborne’s Vita Veg, or the equivalent. These will stay active for several months (provided in our Starter Pack).                                                    
In addition, you need to feed your plants every 10 days or so, with a liquid feed such as Nitrosol, or similar. I make a solution of dissolved Rescue or Bounce Back pellets, which I keep in a concentrate tub, top closed (gets quite smelly), and from which I take about a cup  and dilute it into my 5litre watering jug.
Alternatively, you can put the pellets onto the surface, and they will slowly get washed in with time. Talborne’s fertilizers can also be administered in this way … preferably scratched into the surface layer.
Well fed plants, herbs, veggies and flowers, respond magnificently when fed correctly, ….. hence the saying .. “what you see above, is a reflection of what is below”.  If your plants are struggling in a good position, look below, at the potting soil or feeding or both.
The small sets and the wall hanger sets will need more regular attention, as their mix volumes are less in comparison, and will tend to dry out and exhaust nutrient supplies much faster.
Reconditioning your potting soil
Some of my pots which have perennial herbs
in, such as rosemary, thyme, sage etc,
that have been left for 1-2 years, I have noticed
need more regular feeding the longer they
remain in the same pot, and there comes a
time when the roots can be beneficially cut
back to promote fresh growth.
The other pots, with veggies,
salads and annual flowers, I replenish when
I change the crop … removing the potting soil in the region of the plants I am replacing.  I shake out the potting soil to remove old roots, taking care to save the gel lumps (crystals), and add back into the mix whatever I feel is necessary … kraal manure; worm farm castings (the best fertilizer!); new bark; more crystals; but always fertilizer, and whatever else. I never throw it away … it’s a “work in progress”, you could say. If it is looking too sandy, add some more bark and coir etc. The crystals should last at least a couple of years below the surface; however, any that end up on the surface and become exposed to the sun will break down.
Plant Selection
Optimum container size will vary according to the plants to be grown. Obviously a lettuce plant can be grown more successfully in a very small container than can a dwarf peach tree. The ultimate size of the plant being grown should be directly correlated with the size of the container used. The size of the container, plant size, container location and the choice of mix will determine the frequency of watering and intensity of cultural management. Obviously, a larger container with a greater quantity of potting mix will retain more water, fertilizer elements, etc. than a smaller container. However, the larger the container, the less portable.
The Large tubs can grow almost anything, but I would suggest the return on growing root crops may not be worth the effort.
Large Pots: Best suited for veggies and all herbs and flowers:
Top layer: Tomatoes; aubergine; peppers; chillie peppers; pepper dews; cucumber; spinach; broccoli; rosemary; and any of the list below as well.
All layers: Lettuces; basil; spinach; celery; bush beans; kohlrabi; marjoram; oreganum; parsley; parcell; chives; dill; rocket; sage; thyme; And no doubt more that I haven’t thought of!
All annuals as well as many smaller perennial flowering shrubs.
Spring bulbs are a winner!
Medium Pots: Best suited for all herbs and cut and grow salads:
All herbs, as listed for Large pots.
Lettuces; rocket and other “cut and grow” salads.
Annual and perennial flowers.
Spring bulbs.
Small Pots: best suited for Herbs although succulents and other drought resistant plants do very well because these pots  tend to dry out quickly and need regular attention. If you can place it in a well lit spot, but avoiding direct sun, your results will be 10 fold better.
Herbs such as parsley; rocket; chives;oreganum; marjoram;
Parcell; Strawberries. Succulents and cacti.
Annual flowers look stunning.
Vygies in the spring! Spectacular!
Wall Hanger set: best suited for :
Trailing perennial flowers and succulents
Annuals, especially vygies in the spring.
Salad plants such as lettuce and rocket.






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