The Canny Gardener

how to be a smart gardener


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Re-potting the Cuban way

In the short summer season of the UK, there is much to be done.  I have too many plants, I know and I have been remiss in taking care of them.  One of these was the bay tree that seemed to be stunted and suffering.  So I decided to take it out of pot. I found that the root ball was terrible mass of dead and live roots, twisted into each other.  Root balls are particular problem with container gardening.  These roots often strangle themselves, leading to the destruction of the plant itself.

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When I finally managed to get the plant out of the pot, this is what it looked like.  Simply working with my fingers or a garden fork did not disentangle the roots.  I soaked the root in water in a bucket for many days, taking it out from time to time and untangling the roots, gradually.  Once the roots were free, I cut away the dead roots.  In the meanwhile I prepared the pot by layering alternate greens, dry leaves  and bought compost.  This is a technique I had learnt from Cuban horticulturists who have created amazing inner cities farms to grow food after the embargo on Cuba was imposed.  As they were short of materials, they created techniques such as this layering of green and compost.

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This way I reused the tired soil, revitalising it with fresh material.  My final and deepest layer was of new compost into which I planted the bay tree again.  The plant definitely looks happier.  I have used the Cuban technique  for other pots and again the results have been good and have saved me money.

 

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