DOES SIZE REALLY MATTER?
By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner
Does size really matter? It can, depending on your skill
level, as a gardener. Plants come in many size containers.
Japanese Maples can be purchased in 2” size containers,
all the way up to 8’ wide containers. The age difference
between a Japanese maple in a two inch container, and
the eight foot container, can represent up to 15-25 years
growth! In the bedding plant world a petunia in its smallest
form might be available in a six-pack, then a 4 inch
pot, and the largest a one gallon size pot. Here is where
the skill level of the gardener comes into play.
Beginning gardeners will often start with the smallest
size container, rather than the larger size. The reason, “if
it dies I am not out much money”. This is presuming
that failure lies ahead, as opposed to being successful,
therefore why spend the money on the four inch, or gallon
container size. So we are setting ourselves up mentally
for failure, as well as planting the exact opposite size
container as they should. You see, beginning gardeners
would be better off spending the extra money and purchasing
the larger size container. Remember, if you won’t
spend the money you’ll have to spend the time.
Most novice gardeners really don’t know how much
time to spend on caring for their plants. With very small
plants, you sometimes have to water twice a day! Spend
more money for the mature plant; spend less time in the
care of the plant.
Plants, like people, are most vulnerable in the younger
stages. Like a baby, smaller plants need more regular
attention than older ones. Don’t get the water
right to the young plant in time and it wilts, possibly
dies. The younger plant, out of the six-pack, has a smaller
root system. The root system might only be in the ground
by a couple of inches. The sun will dry out that root
system much faster than an older plant, like one in a
gallon can. The gallon can has a larger root system,
which will be deeper in the ground than the six-pack
plant. Thus the rays of the sun will not dry out the
root mass as quickly.
The other reason size matters is time matters. You have
neighbors who have just moved next door and started there
own used car lot. You need to block the view, now! You
find out that your location would be perfect growing
conditions for a hedge of Arizona Blue Cypress. Let’s
look at the choices available to us. The Cypress is available
in one gallon, five gallon, or fifteen gallon sizes.
The one gallon is one foot tall, the five gallons four
foot tall, and the fifteen gallons are six to seven feet
tall. The difference between each size, in time, is about
a year. In other words a gallon can might be the size
of a five gallon can in about one year, if you care for
it properly. It can take longer if you fail to fertilize,
mulch, water, and perform any pest control when needed.
Precisely the things a beginning gardener may fail to
do. In addition with the larger containers the view of
the used cars is more quickly screened.
There is great joy in starting plants from seed, or
nurturing from small containers. One of the things we
are losing as we speed into the future is our connection
to the soil and the things we grow there. You know we
are impatient people when a very fast germinating plant
like corn is sold in four inch size pots. That’s
some of the fun of gardening, connecting to the earth
in a very literal sense. The question was does size really
matter? I think it might in the above listed examples.
It’s a starting point for the beginner, and with
success they will soon enough stretch their gardening