Juliew
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Location: East Central Florida - Brevard County - Zone 9b

Drainage for Clay Pot

I'm in need of some help. I always was told to use rocks in the bottom of containers for drainage. However, I recently read that doing that is a bad idea. It's best to use a piece of plastic mesh over the drain hole, and fill the container with soil or potting mix. So what do you recommend? Using rock, or just mesh and soil?

The article I read has made me question whether or not the setup I want to use will work. I'll be planting in a pot that is about 22" in diameter, and about 8 1/2" deep. It will be placed on my deck. Because it is so shallow, it will sit close to the ground - I would like to be able to see it better, so I thought about placing the round container on top of an urn-shaped plastic container (would look very much like a birdbath). I feel I would have to place some rock in the urn container to make it more sturdy (it's about 30" high). Currently, both are empty and I tried it to see what it would look like. It's very stable - like they were made for each other. So....what do you think of this idea? Would the rock in the urn (I'd fill it about halfway) cause drainage problems for the container on top? There would be at least a 10" space between the top container and the rock in the bottom container. Any and all help would be appreciated!

BTW, it's going to be a miniature garden with different plants. I will have them grouped together based on water needs.

Sorry to be so wordy - my husband always says that I don't explain myself well enough :lol:
Thanks for your help!
Brevard County, East Central Florida Zone 9b

catgrass
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Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

I've read that you don't need to put rocks or any type of "drain" materials in the bottom of your pots-I've been doing it for years (I'm 62), and my Grandma did, too. We both have/had beautiful container plants. If you are not planting anything in the "urn" container, instead of rocks, you could fill it with sand to stabilize it. Whatever suits you.
zone 9 Southwest La.

Juliew
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:10 pm
Location: East Central Florida - Brevard County - Zone 9b

Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

Thanks catgrass, I appreciate your help. Using sand in the urn is a good suggestion. I've also thought about adding concrete to the bottom 1/3 and using a pvc pipe to extend the drain - slope the concrete a little so it drains like a sink or bathtub. Would that also work?
Thanks!
Brevard County, East Central Florida Zone 9b

imafan26
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Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

Pot shards and rocks used to be added to pots to improve drainage. But they needed to be the right shape and placed correctly or they actually blocked the drain instead. Terra cotta pots breathe so they will lose water through the sides. Clay pots usually only have one hole and I have been able to use a file to enlarge a hole a little when it was smaller than I liked. I use a small piece of window screen at the bottom of some of my pots, not to hold the media in but because snails and slugs like to go into the drain holes and eat the plant roots.

You should not need to extend the drain if you are using potting mix or your media drains very well. Don't use dirt or garden soil in pots because over time they will pack down and contract from the pot. When soil contracts, the water flows around the rootball rather than through it and the roots end up drying out.

You can use pot feet to raise the pot. If you use another pot that works too. I will usually turn my lower pot upside down since the base is usually narrower than the mouth and a wide base is better, and put the other pot on top.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Juliew
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Location: East Central Florida - Brevard County - Zone 9b

Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

Thank you, Imafan26. I appreciate the information and your advice!
Brevard County, East Central Florida Zone 9b

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

Don't put rocks or anything in the pot you are planting in. That was always a myth that it improved drainage . But sand or rock in the bottom container will have no impact on it as long as they are separate .
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applestar
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Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

Right. I agree -- no rocks in the planted container. If you want, you can use a screen over the hole which will help keep slugs and Rollie Pollies, etc. out to some extent, but you need to epoxy glue the edges down for 100% exclusion (you can duct tape the edges for a plastic container) For simply keeping potting mix from falling out initially, I just use a piece of paper or a leaf.

Now does the bottom container have a drainage hole? That wasn't quite clear to me.

If not and the planted container sits directly in the bottom of the outer container, then the rocks will give you a bit of leeway and chance to dump it if the outer container gets filled with excess water or rainwater before the planted container gets waterlogged.

But from your description, it sits way above so that shouldn't be a problem unless it fills all the way up. Rocks or sand will provide extra weight in case the whole set up gets top heavy.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Juliew
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Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:10 pm
Location: East Central Florida - Brevard County - Zone 9b

Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

Thanks rainbowgardener and applestar, I appreciate your help. The bottom container (urn) does have a good-size drain hole in it already.

I would like to ask another question: I bought organic potting mix to use in the container. I have found a couple of websites that say to moisten the mix the day before planting to make planting easier. I've not heard of this before. What are your thoughts on this?
Thanks!
juliew
Brevard County, East Central Florida Zone 9b

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applestar
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Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

I think it helps to moisten the potting mix about an hour to two hours before using for even saturation. You could certainly moisten the day/night before, but if you wait too long -- days to a week -- especially using an organic mix, fungal mycelia and even mold will start to grow in the mix -- mostly harmless but sometimes yucky looking. If kept in unvented container, anaerobic condition can become harmful to the good microbes.

What I typically do is to mix in the water, then loosely cover and go take care of a few things, then come back and plant.

What you want in a moistened, ready to fill the pot mix is kind of like pie dough or biscuit dough after butter/shortening is cut in, before adding the liquid. When you hold a handful, it will briefly hold shape, then crack and crumble. Often described as tightly wrung out sponge.

You are still going to water thoroughly after planting to eliminate air pockets and settle the soil mix, but the water will be absorbed more readily and thoroughly than when using dry potting mix.
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

Juliew
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Posts: 44
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:10 pm
Location: East Central Florida - Brevard County - Zone 9b

Re: Drainage for Clay Pot

Thanks so much applestar! You helped a lot.
Brevard County, East Central Florida Zone 9b



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