Container planting has become a part of my gardening life in San Francisco. That means that I am heavily invested in my flowerpots and planters. Both my favorite plants and my favorite pots tend to be rescues, and my most favorite pot was the hardest rescue of all.
I have written many garden articles about the endless possibilities of container gardening. Yes, you can plant almost any vegetable in a container, and, with proper care, it will yield a generous harvest.
This is a perfect strategy for an apartment dweller with only a patio to use as garden space. Yet, I never thought this would apply to my own life. For many years now I have enjoyed backyards large enough to house a dedicated garden. However, when I moved to my current place in San Francisco, I changed my tune.
Sandy San Francisco
The westernmost chunk of San Francisco – once termed the “Outer Lands” – used to be part of the Pacific sand dunes. This includes the Outer Richmond neighborhood where I currently live. When I stick a shovel into the ground in the backyard, it comes up with almost pure sand.
Now there are a variety of ways to deal with this. One obvious step is to amend the soil. I’ve done this, using purchased soil and homemade compost to build the sand into something that can sustain garden plants. Another option that I’ve used is to include plants that do okay in sandy soil, like my massive collection of succulents.
Planting in Pots
Lately I’ve taken to planting in pots. This avoids the sandy soil issue entirely and livens up the garden with my collection of found flowerpots. Some I’ve painted in bright colors. Others are terra cotta and work well with bright blossoms or foliage.
My very favorite pot looks like a large honey jar. In fact, I fell in love with it when I saw it because it reminded me so powerfully of Winnie the Pooh’s honey jar”” the one he got his head stuck in at some point in his many adventures. This one is so large that I can just wrap my arms around it.
It’s also heavy! I spotted it from a bus window, sitting on the sidewalk with someone’s garbage cans. The minute I got home, I jumped on the motorcycle and went back – some miles! – to investigate. As it turned out, the pot was in perfect shape, uncracked, with drainage holes in the bottom”¦ and it weighed about 50 pounds (23 kg.)!
As I was trying to figure out a way to get it home on the bike, the owner came out of the nearby house. I explained that I had fallen in love with his pot and, if he was tossing it, I hoped to take it home. He was not upset at all, and in fact, offered to take it to my house in the back of his pickup. I readily agreed and the rest, as they say, is history. It quickly became my favorite pot of all time and stands in an honored place in the garden with a little Meyer lemon tree planted in it.