I spent most of last weekend getting rid of the fungus-infected dirt in my flower pots.
I have around 10 pots of various sizes in the small plot of garden encircled by my driveway. I have pots, rather than flowers planted in the ground, because there’s a very large oak tree, and not much thrives if it’s near that tree.
In the dry years we’ve just been through, that tree sent large roots up through the holes in the pots, so even the plants in the pots did not thrive. I took to setting my pots on bricks. But, even then, some roots got into them.
Then, as you recall, a fungus got my pretty impatiens.
After that, there was nothing growing in my pots except a small forest of oak seedlings. These seedlings were about 6 inches high and looked fairly nice.
But I have a rule for my plantings in the yard: If I buy it and work to propagate it, I want it to have a flower.
The solution to my fungus-infected dirt, I was told, is to get rid of the dirt, wash the pots with soap and hot water, and get new dirt.
Easier said than done.
I had a plan. I loaded the pots, a few at a time, on the back of the golf cart and drove them to a spot in the back yard where my husband has a mulch or compost pile.
I emptied the pots on top of the pile and then carefully dug out the golf balls that were caught in the roots at the bottom of the pots.
My husband was once a golfer and, not being able to help himself, he brought home every stray golf ball he found, no matter what its condition. To keep from being overwhelmed by golf balls, I began using them, as you would use shards, at the bottom of the pots to promote drainage.
I put the golf balls back in the pots and then drove the pots to my back steps. I think I made about four trips.
Then I lugged the pots, one or two at a time, into the house and soaked the golf balls, and then the pots, in hot, soapy water. If the pots were too big to soak, I at least washed them with hot, soapy water and rinsed them well.
This took me the better half of a day, as I decided — Why? I don’t know — that the golf balls had to sit in the hot water for at least 10 minutes. I must have washed 400 golf balls. You cannot believe the mess this made of my kitchen.
I then dried the pots and golf balls and returned them to my garden.
The next day I situated my pots, most on top of bricks, and lined the bottoms with aluminum foil (another vain attempt to foil the oak tree roots). I returned the golf balls, all shiny, to the pots.
My husband had bought me a huge bag of potting soil. I don’t know how big, but I couldn’t pick it up. I’d say it was longer than a yard and about 2 feet wide.
I filled up a bucket and transferred the dirt to a pot. Again and again. And again and again.
After about (it seemed like) 20 trips, I ran out of soil.
I changed clothes and my husband and I went and bought another sack of dirt the same size.
I distributed it as well. All of my pots but one are ready for new plants. I need just a little more soil in one large pot. But I think I can fill it up with a small bag of dirt that I can manage to carry.
Now I can’t decide if I want pansies or violettas. (I think I have the right name; these are the small violets that are delicate and look almost fairy-like.)
Maybe I’ll plant both.
But whatever I decide, those plants better be warned. After all the trouble I have gone to, they better grow and be beautiful. I want something showy for my effort.
Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.