Thursday, January 22, 2009

How to wrap plastic pots in Hessian

Someone requested the full instructions for hessian pot wrapping, so here they are:

Hessian-covered pot plant illustration by Cecilia Macaulay

If you have a Goth theme for your balcony garden, black plastic pots are perfect. But if you had some other theme in mind, they might be spoiling the party, visually, anyway.
But plastic does have its virtues: its cheap, light, keeps moisture better than terracotta, and, well, its already there. Permaculture is about finding ways to get What you Want from What You Have. Here's the tried and tested method for modestly covering your pots with hessian, for a harmonious Balconyscape.

First, you find the hessian. A quick trip to the yellow pages is always a good place to start, or make friends with a farmer.
$1 per bag is a fantastic deal, and thats about all they will ask for, for a bag thats already done its duty, hauling coffee or potatoes.
Canvas would work too, but I love the rugged earthiness of hessian, and the illusion it gives that the plants are just growing up out of nature. It smells wonderful, reminding me of my grandpa and his farm.

Cut strips so that they are as tall as the pot, with a generous overhang. Fold both top and bottom under, and place some wire under the top fold, to act as a 'drawstring'.

Get a mate to help you hold the hessian in place, while you secure it with wire.
Since pots are tapered, your fabric may need to be pleated here and there to fit around snugly.

Because it can be hard to get the 'draping' right the first time, for big pots I make a couple of loops of elastic to hold things in place and then twist the wire on last.
Make sure the excess fabric at the bottom is tucked under neatly, with its 'hem' raised clear from the drainage holes or pooled water.

The overlap at the top will also be carefuly tucked in. Tighten the wire and twist the two ends together. The result is like a trampoline spring cover - it doesn't touch the soil and get wet, but hides the black plastic rim.
If you like, cover the wire with twine or ribbon, or leave as is. Rusty looks good with hessian.

They were designed for my undercover balcony garden, but I now put them out in the rain too. Eventually they will compost down to soil, returning to their original home after what was, you must admit, a full and glamorous life for a scrap of humble fabric.

If you are in Melbourne on Australia day (Monday 26th January) you might like to join us for a pot-wrapping party and amusingly high tea. If you actually do a pot-covering project, Id love to have a report and see some pretty pictures.


Erin said...

Ooo! Thanks for posting the instructions. I think I'll try this when I get new plants in a few months. It'll be awhile, but I'll share pictures.

If you don't mind - I'd like to link to this post from my blog when I do a post about containers.

Rachel said...

thanks for the details, Cecilia. I can get a ready supply of plastic pots via CERES (they keep a bin going in their garden centre where you can either drop off or pick up pots!), but haven't liked to use them because of the aesthetics. Now to find my hessian...

Darren (Green Change) said...

Awesome, thanks for the details!

You can also buy hessian in rolls quite cheaply.

Antigonum Cajan said...

Regtangular pots are more practical than round ones for many short plants.

Also, since one can place 2/3 times,
plants with similar sun/heat/watering needs,,,there is much more time to enjoy the garden
rather than watering..not always fun.

Cecilia said...

Erin, I'm so looking forward to seeing your containers. Its really good for me to get those kind of links: it shows me my blogging time actually does something in this world.
Rachel, That is the best news. Bless Ceres, and bless you for holding out for beauty.
Darren, where can you get the rolls?
I get mine from an old guys shed, new and used, but the best thing is the print and history on them. Plain would be easier though.

Everyone, Listen to Antigonim. Rectangular pots are definetly better than round:
*Less wasted balcony space
*More soil means more water and nutrient reserves for each plant
*More heat insulation for the roots and microbes.

Similarly, avoid pots that taper at the bottom, that silly, fashionable shape, all evaporation and loss on the surface, no substance to back things up (like our economies)

So only use round if they come free (black plastic).

Antigonium, are you a permaculturist? Im curious to see more of your projects.

Alison said...

Great blog! As well as looking good,do you think the hessian would help to insulate the plant roots from heat? Black plastic soaks up the sun, while I imagine the hessian would be cooler.
I grow vegies in recycled council recycling tubs, which are rectangular (there are some photos on my blog site). They might look great with some hessian, I'll give it a go.

GurlwiththeKurl said...

i cant see how to do this, when yiu say cut strips, how many?
where do i place the wire and how does it make the trampoline effect, sorry i really want to try this, but can not seem to make it make sense in my head! thanks sam
ps do you have a video or better step by steps? thanks