At the start of the planting season, I’m so excited to see my new young plants. I spend a lot of time sorting them, checking them out, figuring out where exactly I’m going to put them, and admiring them fondly.

At the end of the season, I’m equally excited to see my piles of empty tube pots, muddy stacks collected after each planting session and stashed in a corner of the shed until it’s time to recycle them. 1020 of them this year, including 80 or so emptied of plants that were snapped off, shrivelled, too small or unhealthy.

A few years ago, I used to just take them back to the Murrumbateman Landcare nursery, mud and all, along with the Styrofoam boxes they came in, and perhaps a few of the racks which I get from Damian DiMarco at Windbreak Trees, although I mostly return the racks to him.

Styrofoam has the advantage of providing some protection against frost damage. Racks allow for “air pruning” of roots but the pots can get drier than in the boxes. So that’s a dilemma of which method. to choose. I find both work.

Anyway, I realised that I needed to be sterilising my pots and boxes before I returned them if I didn’t want to be responsible for unhealthy plants next season. I’d seen some white mouldy patches on some of the plants in 2017 and 2018. So that’s become a finale to the planting season.

The big mulch buckets got an outing for the first time this season. I’ve switched to plastic disks instead of mulch to retain water around the plants, so the buckets have mostly wandered off to be used for storing kindling, transporting weeds, holding weed spray chemicals or other mundane tasks. Three were clean and empty, out of seven.

One of my mottos is “You can always use more buckets.”

Only the first bucket contained hot water, bleach and sugar soap. The other two were for rinsing off the rest of the dirt and any soap remnants.

The first time we washed the pots, in 2019, I used the house laundry. That was a big mistake. It made a lot more mess than I or any of my helpers expected, and was far too crowded. Now I create a special pot washing setup next to a garden tap. It still goes on a lot longer than I expect. Thanks to Dmitry’s cheerful help, and despite the brisk and chilly wind, though, it wasn’t unbearable.

I was, as always, pretty wet when we were done.

It was very satisfying to take the boxes back to the Landcare nursery already neatly stacked and cleaned, ready for new seedlings.

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