My Kitchen Counter is My Potting Bench

potting up bulbs in the kitchen with a boot tray

Potting up bulbs in the kitchen with a boot tray: it’s a handy work surface, that contains the mess.

If you are in a small house or apartment, it can be tricky to find a place for the messy business of fooling about with soil and plant pots. I used to spread newspapers about, which work to contain soil spills, but not water spills. Now I use a tool that can be bought at any discount store, a plastic boot tray. It makes a perfect workspace for potting up plants, bulbs or sowing seeds. I think mine cost three dollars. You can buy fancy potting trays too, from Lee Valley Tools, but mine works perfectly, and is small enough to stow away when I’m finished, unlike the fancy one, which is a little too big to store in my small kitchen. (If I had a greenhouse, the Lee Valley one would have a permanent home on a bench, but that’s a dream for the future)

I had some Amaryllis bulbs I was potting up, and here are the methods I used to make the task easy:

1. Get a boot tray to contain your messy work with soil and water spills, and a large bag of Pro Mix or other soil-less mix. Pro Mix is usually bone dry from the bag. Never use it in this state. It must be moistened before you use it.

2. Get a container to mix your soil-less mix with water. I use a big stainless steel mixing bowl. Always use HOT water when you are moistening your dry soil mix; it breaks the surface tension of the particles. Hot water does the trick, while cold water  takes forever to absorb.

3. Latex gloves keep your hands clean, while still letting you hand mix the soil. Thin latex gloves let you feel what you’re doing, unlike traditional garden gloves. ( Thrifty tip: I recycle mine from hair dye kits.) I used to never wear gloves, but there are days when I’d rather not have soil under my fingernails. An old plastic spatula also works well to break up soil clumps.

4. When first watering anything you have just potted, find a deep saucer (Thrifty tip: I recycle plastic take-out containers to use as deep saucers) and water from the bottom until the soil is very well saturated. Tip out excess water after soil is completely wet. Let your freshly potted bulb or plant dry out somewhat before watering again. If you have sown seeds, cover with plastic or a lid for the first few days while germination takes place. Remove the lid (or partially remove) once you have green growth. Water seedlings carefully. A spray bottle is one of the best ways to water delicate seedlings at first.

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