Growing Things: Clawfoot planters and hot-weather watering

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Q I have recently acquired a very old cast iron bathtub with claw feet. I placed the tub outside my property fence, between the fence and the paved alley. The alley runs north/south and the tub is facing west. I plan to grow something attractive in it for everyone in my block to enjoy. My concern is that vandals also use the alley so I probably should choose what I plant carefully. I have considered Karl Forrester ornamental grasses with that lime-yellow vine dangling over the edges. What ideas might you have for me?

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Repurposing bathtubs, which have a built-in drain, can be fun planters.
Repurposing bathtubs, which have a built-in drain, can be fun planters. Photo by Ken Orr /Supplied

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THE I’ve seen clawfoot tubs repurposed as planters many times. I always like the way they look. Your idea of ​​the grasses combined with Ipomoea batista, or sweet potato vine would be very attractive. I have an idea to share — it’s a planting I found particularly attractive. It was a clawfoot tub simply filled with Alyssum ‘Carpet of Snow’ and ‘Rosie O’Day’. These spreading and low-growing plants filled the entire tub giving the illusion of a water-filled bathtub. The bonus is the lovely fragrance of the Alyssum. Since you are sharing this tub with your neighborhood, having the aesthetically pleasing planting combined with fragrance would be a very nice combination.

The great watering debate

Q I’m finding my plants are suffering during our hot spells. Is there a better time to water them? I’ve been watering towards the end of the day. My thinking is that if I water earlier in the day the water will just evaporate so I give them a drink to last through the night and into the next day.

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THE This is one of those topics that causes debate among the gardening fraternity. My opinion is watering in the evening is not a good idea as the risk of fungal disease from the humidity increases. I recommend watering in the early morning on hot days. The reasoning is that watering in the cool of the morning allows the water to penetrate deeper into the root ball without evaporating quickly.

When watering I always use a watering wand so I can water at the base of the plants and never pour water on the leaves. Water droplets can act as magnifying glasses and cause burning on the leaves.

Pay special attention to container plants as they may need to be watered twice a day on very hot days. Use the finger test in your containers to check on moisture levels. I stick my index finger in the soil up to the second knuckle. If it feels dry, it needs water.

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Don’t forget to water trees and shrubs as well. Shallow rooted trees such as birch or cedars need extra attention in the heat as do some shrubs such as hydrangeas. The rule with these plants is to water less frequently but more deeply. I like using a soaker hose laid around the base of the tree or shrub and run the water for a couple of hours. If you don’t have a soaker then use a regular hose with the water coming out in a trickle for an hour or so at the base. I do like to make a well of soil around the base of my trees and shrubs to help trap the water and allow it to penetrate more deeply.

Learn more by emailing your questions to, reading past columns at or my book Just Ask Jerry. You can also follow me on Twitter @justaskjerry01.

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