Sunday, January 08, 2012

Don't Throw Out Broken Clay Pots! - Part 1

Winter is the season I purge a lot of gardening "stuff". I go through all of my pots, gardening tools and decide as to whether I can find any use with items which have seen better days.

One item I will never throw out:  the broken clay pot.! Not in this case!
You may be wondering, why.

If there is one question I get asked most often regarding house plants, is how often do you water them. I find folks usually over water their household plants.

One preventative measure to over watering, is proper drainage. This is where the broken clay pot comes in.

Most folks have broken, chipped pots, or terracotta pots you don't like anymore, you know, the ones you can't bother to clean thoroughly. Just make sure you don't have ones that have areas of mold or questionable bits stuck on them. Mineral deposits are fine. Rinse off the worst.

Bundle all up, so no bits come out

Smashing on carpeted floor is ideal, no scratches or damage below
Grab an old cloth, cloth bag or a tarp and a large rock or mallet, place the clay pots inside and smash away.  I find this part quite cathartic!  :)

You want the clay pot to be broken down in small sized pieces, leaving some larger than others.  Use these broken bits as a drainage layer underneath the soil inside your planter pots.

Place the larger sized broken bits over the drainage holes of your pots first. Depending how large your pots are, there may be more than one hole. Just make sure each hole is covered so you don't see it. Then place enough broken bits to cover the entire bottom of the pot.
I've added about an inch of clay bits here

For larger pots, you can add 2 inches of clay bits, smaller pots add only enough to cover the pot.  The larger clay bits will cover the drainage holes, allowing water to drain through instead of the soil.

Using other drainage material is fine at the bottom of your pots, but I do like using clay bits as they are porous, absorbing water more so than gravel or grit. Plus, if you garden a lot like I do, you're bound to have a broken pot or two laying about. Might as well use them. You'll be diverting garbage waste and saving some money while you're at it!

If you don't have drainage holes in your pot, this method of adding a soil-less layer at the bottom is ESSENTIAL. Plants generally don't want to sit in wet soil, unless they are aquatic plants. Adding a layer of large agregate below the soil, allows the water to drain down into this area full of air pockets, leaving the above soil dryer. It creates a reservoir of water, ready for the plants once the soil above begins to dry out.

Don't just think of indoor use, but for outdoors as well. I use my broken clay pot bits in my herb and annual planters.

Any of the finer bits of dust and grit that are leftover, I toss in with my soil mixes.  It's a great way to help aerate the soil, increasing drainage as well!

Check out my other post here for another reason why you should keep your broken clay pots!


  1. I always re-use my pots from year to year but didn't realize how important it is to scrub them clean. Thanks for the tip! I'm enjoying your articles.


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