In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2006
Regional Report

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Rearrange your containers so the heaviest pots are located in the front where they will be easier to lift.

Organizing Gardening Clutter

I have a "back 40," and I imagine you have one too. It's that part of the garden you don't want anybody to see. It might be where you store your pots, or where the intended compost pile will soon materialize, or it might just be a section of the yard that you haven't gotten around to yet.

My dirty little secret is hidden under the stairs. Where else can you store empty pots and saucers and opened bags of soil? Here's the problem: stacked pots can become so tightly wedged that you can never pull them apart. The dark, closed spaces between the pots also create a perfect home for spiders. It's not that spiders are bad, it's just that you don't want to come across them unaware. Saucers can collect rain water, and that becomes a problem later in the season when the mosquitos begin to arrive. Ever heard of West Nile Virus? Mosquitos can breed in as little a 1/2 cup of water.

Stacking and Sorting
"So what is the solution?" you might ask. As a long-time pack rat, I don't have the end-all solution, but at least I can help with the stacking problem. Pots should be stacked according to size and type. In other words, stack clay with clay, and plastic with plastic, and never the twain shall meet. Clay and terra cotta pots should be arranged with the smallest pots toward the back so that you don't have to lift the heavier pots over the entire stack. Clay pots over 14 inches in diameter can be stacked rim to rim, so that one is upside down on top of the other. This technique prevents large pots from becoming wedged tightly together, although there is a slight chance of chipping the rims when you move them.

Plastic pots can be stacked and laid sideways under benches or along fences. An even better solution is to store them on their sides inside plastic milk crates. Just make sure they don't collect water. Placing a 2 x 4 along the back side will give the stacked containers a slight slant to eliminate the water collection problem. Unless you divide a lot of perennial plants, there is not much reason to keep more than a few 1 gallon plastic containers on hand.

Saucers should be stacked upside down so they won't collect water. Place the largest empty saucer on the bottom. Stacking this way makes them easy to pull from the pile.

The little plastic cell packs can, and should be, recycled. How many of these things can you really use? I like to plant from seed, but I figure the most I can possibly use during the entire season is a half dozen flats. If I need more, I can always buy them at the nursery.

Opened bags of soil store very nicely in 5-gallon plastic buckets. I keep bags of various sizes of gravel in one bucket, orchid mix in another, and so on. Cover the tops of the buckets with the empty soil bag so that you know what's inside. An extra-large rubber band or bungee cord will hold the bag in place and keep out water.

Empty tomato cages can be used to store unused plant stakes. Turn them upside down so they are more stable, but even better is to stick the wire legs into the ground. Unused stakes can also be stored inside rolls of wire, if you keep that on hand. I like to sort stakes by size and length, but what really matters is to have them all in one place so they are easy to locate when you need one.

Although reorganizing your garden storage area may seem like a daunting task, it will get you in the mood for the upcoming season, and you will know exactly what you have on hand and better yet, what you need to buy!


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