Dig It! - Jack O'Planter
by Bettina Sparrowe, Sage and Snow Garden Club
October 3, 2006
Nothing says "Fall" like a pumpkin, so what could be more perfect for a fall plant container than a pumpkin? This planter can be used as a centerpiece or an outside planter.
To keep your Jack O'Planter looking good for as long as possible, don't plant live plants directly into it (of course, if you want to use artificial plants, that would be nice, too). Instead, put one large or several small plastic pots with plants into the pumpkin. Take several different size plastic pots along when choosing your pumpkin to be sure they will fit in it. Kale, pansies and cape daisies all do well in cool fall temperatures. Even some of your houseplants will take on a new life in a Jack O'Planter!
Once you have your pumpkin, cut an opening in the top large enough for the pot(s) to slip through. Scoop out the insides (don't forget to toast those seeds for a nutritious treat) and cut a one-inch drainage hole in the bottom. To seal the pumpkin and to keep it from rotting, spray the inside with Wilt-Pruf or treat with any Jack-O-Lantern preservative, especially the area around the hole. Also, coat the cut and peeled areas lightly with petroleum jelly. If you want to extend your planter's life until Halloween (i.e., keep it from freezing), you can take it in at night and return it outside each day.
Now you are ready to add plants to your Jack O'Planter. Water the plants well (and let them drain completely) before you place them in the planter. Don't forget to put a saucer under your planter if you have it in the house.
Learning Your Soil Type
Working with the soil is like any long-term relationship. It helps to know who you are dealing with and how they will react to a variety of circumstances. Once you know what kind of soil you have, you can judge how it will react to various practices involving soil amendments and fertilizer.
The Jar test lets you look at the mineral components in your soil and their relative quantities, which indicates soil type. First, dig down 4 inches to get a ¼ cup soil sample. Place the soil and 2 cups water in a clear glass quart jar or a plastic drink bottle and add a few drops of dishwashing detergent. Shake the jar vigorously for one minute and then set the jar aside and let the contents settle. After the water clears (up to 24 hours), look at the layers under bright light. Coarse sand particles settle on the bottom. The next layer is silt and the top layer, some of which may still be suspended in water, is clay (yellow-brown, red or tan). Organic matter will float to the top.
Here is how you analyze your sample. If over ½ of the total is sand, you have a light, sandy soil. If over ½ of the total is silt without much clay, you have a heavy silt. If ¼ of the total is clay and you have a fair amount of silt, you have clay soil. A good loam will show as 2/5 sand, 2/5 silt and a narrow band of clay. Soil types may vary around your place, so you might want to do this test with samples from other locations.
For an analysis of your soil that includes how acidic or basic it is, amount of organic matter, amount of different minerals (potassium, iron, zinc), etc., you can send a soil sample to the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Go to the UW Extension Office in Pinedale at 621 South Pine to pick up the materials you will need or call them at 307-367-4380.
The Sage and Snow Garden Club meets the second Tuesday each month at noon in the Pinedale Library. If you have questions about the Sage and Snow Garden Club or anything in this article or would like to provide ideas for future articles, please contact the Sage and Snow Garden Club at firstname.lastname@example.org or Box 2280, Pinedale, WY 82941 or come to one of our meetings.