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DOES SIZE REALLY MATTER?
By Trey Pitsenberger, co-owner Golden Gecko

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 wings.

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