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Potting







Cuttings and small plants are put into two-inch or "thumb" pots. Some of the larger growing geraniums or very sturdy plants require two-and-one-half inch pots, but the smaller size should be used when possible. The soil for pots up to three inches should be screened, but not made too fine. A coal-ash sifter, or half-inch screen will do. The soil should be made up as directed in Chapter III. The pots should be thoroughly cleaned with sand and water, or by a several days' soaking, and then wiping out with a cloth, if they have been used before. An old pot, with dirt sticking to the inside and the pores all clogged up, will not do good work. Old or new, they should be immersed in water until through bubbling just before using; otherwise they will absorb too much moisture from the soil. The method of potting should depend somewhat upon the condition of the roots of the cutting. If they are less than half an inch long, as they should be, fill the pot level full of soil, make a hole with the forefinger of one hand; insert the cutting to about half its depth with the other, rap the bottom of the pot smartly against the bench to settle the earth, and then press it down firmly with the thumbs, leveling it as the pot is placed to one side in an empty flat. (The jarring down of the soil should precede the firming with the thumbs, as this will compact the soil more evenly within the pot.) This should leave the soil a little below the rim of the pot, making a space to hold water when watering; and the cutting should be so firmly embedded that it cannot be moved without breaking the soil. With cuttings whose roots have been allowed to grow an inch or more in length, and plants with a considerable ball of roots--as they should have when coming from the transplanting flats--it is better partly to fill the pot. Hold the plant or cutting in position with the left hand and press the soil in about it with the right hand--firming it as directed in the former case. With a little practice either operation can be performed very rapidly. Florists do four to five hundred pots an hour. When for any reason it is necessary to put a small or weakly rooted plant or cutting, or a cutting that is just on the point of sending forth roots, in a pot that seems too large, put it near the edge of the pot, instead of in the middle. This will often save a plant which would otherwise be lost, and at the next shift it can, of course, be put in the center of the pot. If no small pots are at hand, several small plants or cuttings can be put around the edge of a four-or five-inch pot, with good results. Care must be taken, however, not to give too much water. As soon as the little plants or cuttings are potted up, give them a thorough watering and place them where the holes in the bottoms of the pots will not be clogged with soil. A large flat, in the bottom of which an inch of pebbles, coarse sand or sifted cinders has been put, will be a good place for them. Keep shaded during the hot part of the day for three or four days. At first the pots may be placed as close together as possible, but in a very short time--two weeks at the most, if the growing conditions are right--they will need to be put farther apart. Nothing will injure them so quickly as being left crowded together where they cannot get enough air. Better, if necessary, give or throw away half of them than to attempt to grow fifty plants where you have room for only two dozen. As before, water only when necessary, i.e., when the surface of the soil begins to look whitish and dry. Then water thoroughly. Until by practice you know just what they need, knock a few out of the pots, say fifteen minutes after watering, and see if the ball of earth has been wet through to the bottom; if not, you are not doing the job thoroughly. If the pots do not dry out between waterings, but stay muddy and heavy, either your soil is not right or you have used pots too large for your plants.





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