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Help! How do I get a dead plant out of its pot without breaking myself or the pot?

Discussion in 'Container Gardening' started by Howard Stone, Sep 21, 2018.

  1. Howard Stone

    Howard Stone Gardener

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    Dead box in pot.jpg

    The above is a picture of a dead box plant in a terracotta container about 45cm high and diameter 50cm. I need to get it out. I have quite a few of these -- a consequence of box beetle. This is not a trivial task. It weights a lot. I'm working by myself.

    I've hacked off most of the top growth with secateurs -- maybe there's a better way (hedge trimmer?)

    But the biggest problem is how to get the soil and strong tap root out. Any tricks appreciated because so far it is defeating me completely.

    Howard
     
  2. Fat Controller

    Fat Controller Cuddly Scottish Admin! Staff Member

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    I'd be tempted to put the pot in the middle of somewhere where a bit of mess isn't going to cause a problem, and then use a pressure washer and drive it at the hardened soil in the pot. I used a similar method a few years back to cut up the roots of a fallen buddleia tree
     
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    • Scrungee

      Scrungee Well known for it

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      In similar situations I've used an old bread knife to slice some chunks of soil and root out. Slip it down the inside of the pot and work all around first. If that doesn't free it, turn upside down, insert a short piece of old broom handle through the drainage hole and whack it with a club hammer.
       
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      • Howard Stone

        Howard Stone Gardener

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        A saw doesn't work but I will try the broom handle idea when I can get someone to help me.
         
      • Howard Stone

        Howard Stone Gardener

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        This is an imaginative idea!
         
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        • Selleri

          Selleri Gardener

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          I'm in for the Big Knife Method as well, unfortunately we don't have old bread knives around so I use the good chefs' knife and wash it well afterwards :redface:

          Cut around the soil following the side of the pot to cut away the tiny, clinging roots attached to the porous clay wall. Then the Scrungee's broomstick method sounds very efficient if just yanking and cutting chunks off the soil doesn't work or if the hole is too small to fit anything substantial through.

          If the soil is clay-ish, a thorough soaking might help, but it will add to the weight if you need to lift anything.

          Rolling the pot around on it's side might also help after cutting the rootball off the sides. If you do the rolling and pulling over some kind of large sheet, it will be easier to manage the removed soil afterwards.

          Good luck and sorry about your Box Howard! You'll have very nice planters free for some bulbs afterwards though. Big terracotta planters are so very beautiful! :)
           
        • Verdun

          Verdun Passionate gardener

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          Knife method for me too. Patience though. Cut every root that appears as you dig out loosened soil. Serrated knife! trowel and secateurs :)
          Never broken a pot yet despite some jammed in plants:)
           
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          • ARMANDII

            ARMANDII ADMINISTRATOR Staff Member

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            With a clay pot that size I usually soak the compost, cut the stems to the soil, and then turn the pot upside down and let gravity do the work:dunno::coffee::snorky:
             
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            • Jiffy

              Jiffy The Match is on Fire

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              Turn the pot upside down and stick hose pipe in the drainage hole (make sure it stays there)turn on water but no full bore and go and have a cup of tea

              If it hasn't wash some soil out at least you have had a cup of tea!!
               
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              • Sian in Belgium

                Sian in Belgium Total Gardener

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                I usually do a combination of @ARMANDII and @Scrungee 's methods.

                First, cut the stem(s) so that they are flush with the soil this will mean that there is a gap between the top of the soil, and the top of the pot. Then pot the pot on its side. Determine the size of the drainage hole. Find the appropriate size "pusher" to go through the hole. Could be a broom handle, or a metal meat skewer for a tiny hole...
                Then push, sometimes you have to roll the pot to help with the movement. If all else fails, turn upside down and leave for gravity to do it...
                It's at times like this, you realise the importance of placing a strong crock across the hole, to push against. I always end up regretting placing polystyrene over the hole!!
                 
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                • Outlander

                  Outlander Gardener

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                  What a good point that is> I will have to remember that @ARMANDII
                   
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                  • Outlander

                    Outlander Gardener

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                    I will be interested to hear how you get on @Howard Stone as I have exactly the same problem.
                     
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                    • HarryS

                      HarryS Eternally Optimistic Gardener

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                      Soak the plant very very thoroughly. With a little bit of digging it really should slide out of the pot that shape . Otherwise the mallet and tube of Bostik method never fails :biggrin:
                       
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                      • Mike Allen

                        Mike Allen Gardener

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                        I'd be inclined to leave what's left of the woody growth. Really good soaking at the same time by whatever means scoop out the soil, including the knife suggestions. Also perhaps an old saw slipped under the pot, as the roots may have grown through the drainage hole. Once really soggy, grip the remains of the plant and try using the plant as you would a sink/drain plunger.
                         
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                          Last edited: Sep 22, 2018
                        • Scrungee

                          Scrungee Well known for it

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                          Don't forget to wear safety goggles!


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