This naturally follows the preceding chapter, and I will briefly state a few of the most important points; first of all is soil, or potting mold, often rather a troublesome thing to get by those who have only a few dozen plants to repot. The soil used by us, and most florists, for nearly every plant we grow, is one combining freshness, richness, and what is called friableness of texture; this condition we get by paring off the sod from the roadside, mixing it with one-third of well-rotted stable manure, and throwing it in heaps until it rots; turning it over two or three times until the whole is well mixed; if the plants are small, we run it through a fine sieve before using it; if large, we use it rough, without sifting. But it may not always be convenient to get this material, and it is by no means indispensable to success; leaf-mold from the woods, mixed with any fresh field loam, and a little rotted stable manure, will answer nearly as well; or city folks can get sweepings from the pavements, and these mixed in equal bulk with any good fresh soil, that from an old cultivated garden is not usually so good, will make a potting soil in which almost any plant will grow vigorously; of late years we have used street sweepings largely in our potting soil, and like it very much.
Now having the soil in proper condition, the next thing is the pots, which, if they are not new, should be thoroughly washed, so that the evaporation of moisture will take place freely through the porous sides. One of the most common errors among amateur cultivators is to put their plants in too large pots. If a plant such as a Rose or Geranium is lifted up out of the ground to be potted, it should be placed in a pot only large enough to allow an inch or so of soil to be placed below, and around its roots, - or to make it better understood, if the plants are, say a foot high, and a foot in diameter, they should be pruned back so that the diameter will not be more than 6 or 8 inches, and for such sized plants the pot should not be more than 6 inches wide and deep.
The same rule applies to plants that have been growing in pots; if it is now in a pot three inches wide, a proper shift will be to one four or four and a half inches wide; if in a five-inch, shift to six and a half or seven-inch, and so on. In taking a plant out of a pot to place it in another one, turn it upside down with the fingers of the left hand spread over the surface of the earth, or top of the ball; with the right hand holding the pot by the bottom, give the rim a smart rap on the edge of a board, and the ball of earth enveloping the root will come out, just as a jelly will out of a mold. I am particular in referring to this simple matter, knowing that it is no uncommon thing for ladies to break the pot with a hammer in their endeavors to get at the root, although they would hardly sacrifice a bowl to get at the jelly. In shifting, or repotting, place a little soil in the bottom of the pot, then place in the hall of roots exactly in the center, which will leave a space of from half an inch to two or three inches between this and the sides of the pot, according to the size of plant to be shifted; to pack this space between the side of the pot and the ball of roots with soil, it is better to use a flat stick with which to crowd it in moderately firm, filling up the pot to within an inch or so of the rim, this space being required to enable it to hold water. After potting, give a good watering with a sprinkler to settle the soil to the bottom of the pot, but after this be sparing of water until the plant shows signs of new growth, which will take place simultaneously with its making roots in the fresh soil. We use no potsherds or drainage of any sort in our pots, believing it to be perfectly useless to do so, the evaporation from the porous sides of the pot in our dry climate giving drainage enough. In the greenhouse we always spread an inch or so of sand on the bench or table upon which the plants stand; this to some extent prevents the plants from being injured when watering has been too long neglected, as the pots and the soil imbibe moisture from the sand which is usually more or less wet. When the plants are placed on bare shelves, either in the sitting-room where they are well exposed to light, or in the greenhouse, watering should be done at least once a day, provided they are growing vigorously.