If you garden on a balcony or roof deck, the weight of the container
should be kept to a minimum. It's easier to position pots that don't
weigh too much and it's cheaper for soil if you can lighten the load.
In large containers, layer the bottom with
styrofoam chips or plastic seedling pots that are crumpled up. This
fills up the pot a little where soil isn't needed and makes the
final planted container lighter weight. This trick is good for
annuals that don't send down deep roots and never use the soil a
foot below the surface.
It's a good idea to place a bit of fabric
cloth over the plastic layer so the soil doesn't escape into the
Use a lightweight soil mixture to keep weight
down. Mixtures are available with perlite or vermiculite in them or
you can mix in up to 1/3 of vermiculite in with potting soil.
Consider the weight of the actual pot. While
cast iron pots, stone troughs and concrete urns, are gorgeous keep
them for the patio garden where they can remain in place over the
Plastic is by far the lightest material if
you like to rearrange your pots regularly or if weight is a concern
on a roof deck.
Clay is traditional but tends to crack if
left out in the winter. If you live in an apartment and don't have a
potting shed, the new plastic terra-cotta imitations might be the
right choice. We saw these in Florence with their Tuscan designs and
you could hardly tell the difference from the traditional red clay
ones. The best plastic versions are pretty expensive, often as much
as clay, but they will last forever and you can leave them outside
all season. As they are becoming more popular, cheaper versions can
be found at many nurseries in the spring.
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