nork
Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Nov 19, 2006 8:15 pm
Location: canada

Problem with indoor planter

Hello everyone. I hope you don't mind me posting a question on my first post, but i have this problem. I should point out I'm not much of a gardener, but i am learning and trying my best. I am getting the hang of it outdoors but i have an indoor problem.
There is a huge brick planter in my house. Its 20 ft long, about4 ft high and about 20 inches wide at the top, but its design is such that its a lot narrower at the bottom, maybe
about 8 or 9 inches. It was built the same time as the house, about 40 yrs ago. Its in good condition, fresh coat of paint about 3 yrs ago and totally filled with earth. This is the family home and vines covered the whole wall at one time. But my father took them all out. Then i moved in. I have a huge 60 in tv. So i completely covered the planter with plywood and put my tv up there. Im sure you are cringing, lol. I had it that way
for about 8 yrs or so.

Anyway, i remodelled the house about 3 yrs ago, took the tv down and took off the plywood. Last year i planted a few plants. They are all vine types as i was hoping they would work their way up the wall, which is brick as well. The planter is there, then a brick wall and its attached to the garage, thats why there is a brick wall there. Anyway, these vine-type
plants rooted for me so i planted them. They got about a foot or so long and stopped growing. I also have another plant that has done the same thing in that i planted it but thats all. It hasnt grown and it looks about 10% dead. The plants were all planted at the same time.
I water these plants once a week. I use a few gallons of water as the planter is large and there is a lot of earth there. I don't think i water it too much. If anything the earth still seems to be a bit dry.
I am wondering if i did something to the earth by covering it for those years? Sounds a bit dumb but what do i know, lol. Or is there some other reason? What do i need to do to get these plants to start growing instead of sitting there? There
are 5 plants in total, 4 have larger, fairly broad leaves, likely a very common type of vine, i believe. The other one i bought in a store, don't know what it is, but its got small leaves on it.
As for light, they don't get a lot but they do get some light, the leaves on the plants are very green with the one exception listed. There are some fluorescent lights above the planter. I tried leaving them on for a few days to see if that helped. Didnt seem to. But it seems to me the lights are a bit too
high anyway, they are on the ceiling. Perhaps they should be lower? This is all guesswork on my part, you could say that i basically have the black thumb of death, although i have
learned a tiny bit lately and my survival rate has climbed on my outide work.

Can anyone help me out with advice?

Thanks in advance.

Newt
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Posts: 1868
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 10:44 pm
Location: Maryland zone 7

Hi Nork,

Welcome to The Helpful Gardener! No problem with your first post being a question. It happens all the time and that's just fine. You have given a very good description of what is happening and that is helpful.

As I was reading about you taking off the plywood and planting, my thoughts were, "I hope she put in fresh soil!" Apparently you didn't. You don't say what your father used as soil originally, if it was potting soil, which is peat moss based, or garden soil or something else. Either way, I would think that the soil is 'dead' and has no microbial life to it. It could also contain mold from all those years covered, especially if it got damp or was damp when covered. Since you don't say anything about any blackened leaves or anything on the leaves or stems, I'm thinking mold isn't an issue.

Here's some thoughts that might be helpful. Vines often take time to establish their roots so the root system can support all that top growth. Low light conditions will contribute to slow growth. The florescent lights are probably helpful, but you don't say how far away from the plants they are.

The soil has no nutritional value at this point. You don't mention fertilizing, which feeds only the plants anyway, and not the soil. Since the plants have been in the soil for a year, I would suggest you remove what soil you can without disturbing the roots. Then add in fresh potting soil that DOES NOT contain fertilizer but does have perlite, mixed with compost. Use a mix of 60% potting soil and 40% compost. When you dig out the old soil you should be able to tell if you are over or under watering by the moisture content in the soil that's there. Don't use synthetic fertilizers. Since we are going into winter, it would be best to wait a month after replacing the soil and then fertilize with fish emulsion or fish emulsion mixed with sea weed. You can do this once a month during winter.

I'm guessing that your vines are sold as houseplants. It would be best to know which ones they are. Take a look through here to see if you can id your vines.
https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/interiorscape/gallery/index.html

Newt

nork
Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Nov 19, 2006 8:15 pm
Location: canada

Thanks Newt

And thanks for the info and advice. Lets get the lights out of the way. I did point out they were on the ceiling but i didnt mention a distance away and the plants are about 5 ft away from the lights, maybe too far away to be of any value.
What you have mentioned is what i have been thinking. And its that i have "killed" the soil.
It was dry when i covered the earth with plywood. I live in Windsor, a mile from Detroit, so we use central air in summer and heat in winter so the earth was fairly dry and i didnt leave any plants in the ground. It was bare.
So guess i kind of killed the earth that is there, which is likely just plain earth. When my parents lived there they had vines growing up the wall and they went right to the top of the brick wall.
I will have to repair the earth as you have pointed out.
Thanks very much for your help as i wasnt sure you could "kill" or render earth that useless but i guess i managed to do so. All in the name of watching sports from my 60 in tv! At this point you might realize i am a he, not a she.

Newt
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Posts: 1868
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 10:44 pm
Location: Maryland zone 7

The lights should be fine at that height if they are on for at least 8 to 12 hours. I really didn't think about you being a he or a she. With my name people tend to think I'm a he, but I'm a she! :? Guess we're even. :wink:

Btw, you really didn't 'kill' the soil. It just didn't have the opportunity to have any good microbes in it. It just kinda wilted away. Not to worry, the compost will invigorate the soil and your plants in a gentle way, unlike the synthetic fertilizers which is like steriods for your plants.

Newt

nork
Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Nov 19, 2006 8:15 pm
Location: canada

What will the synthetics actually do? If they simply helped plants grow wouldnt that be ok?

Newt
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1868
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 10:44 pm
Location: Maryland zone 7

Synthetic fertilizers contain residual salts. In your case, without having drainage to flush away the salts, it could damage the plants over the long haul. Synthetics also don't feed the soil, just the plants. Healthy soil leads to healthy plants. The sea weed has extra nurtients that the synthetics don't have. Synthetics also can lead to fast growth that is succulent and watery and attracts insect pests. Maybe this will explain it better.
https://www.dirtdoctor.com/view_question.php?id=131
https://www.geogrowersinc.com/howfertilizerworks.htm

Newt

nork
Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Nov 19, 2006 8:15 pm
Location: canada

okay, thanks very much. A lot of learning for me to do, but thanks for putting me in the right direction!

Newt
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1868
Joined: Tue May 25, 2004 10:44 pm
Location: Maryland zone 7

You are so very welcome! I know you'll do just fine. :D

Newt

nork
Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Sun Nov 19, 2006 8:15 pm
Location: canada

Well, here i am, over a year later.
I even forgot about posting here, didnt come back to check on what advice was given.
What i did do was put in some black earth that i got from Canadian Tire.
My vines are about the same, have grown a bit. I added another vine-looking type plant and its doing ok, growing slowly, spreading out.
One problem is that the earth is so dry. I can only put so much water in at a time because its likely made some kind of "ruts" underground where water just goes from top and out the bottom and onto the floor.
And in one corner i see that the earth has broken into big dried-out clumps with a white substance on these clumps.
The vines and other plants are stable and growing very slowly now that i have added black earth.
I am going to re-read this thread and start folllowing some of the advice that was given so long ago.

opabinia51
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Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 5:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

This fall, collect up as many leaves as you can find except walnut leaves and mulch them with your lawn mower. Spread them around your vines and surrounding areas and cover with manure (try any local farms if you have any, usually free or very inexpensive) and leave for the winter.

I actually like to do a layer of leaves then some sort of green like: Manure, used coffee grounds (local coffee shops), grass clippings, blood meal and so on, then a layer of leaves then another green then a layer of leaves and so on until you I am satisified and I end up with a layer of chicken manure that I buy from a local chicken farm for 3 dollars for a 50 pound bag.

My plants grow like crazy each year. I hope this helps.


PS

Keep a pile of leaves at the back of your yard to use as leaf mold as well. Keep in mind that garter snakes will make a home in the pile to overwinter though, and that this is a good thing because garter snakes keep the slug population in your yard down. As much as I dislike snakes



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