More and more people are discovering the joy of container gardening. They may have limited space – or limited time – in which to garden. For them a couple of containers on their balcony, patio, or porch steps will do the trick nicely.
We are now in the middle of summer heat when all plants, whether in the ground or in a container, will be stressed. To help you and your container garden survive these months here are some tips for successful survival in hot weather.
Add Mulch to Soil Surface – One of the best (and most natural) ways to help soil retain moisture is to mulch. It imitates the natural leaf litter present in forests and meadows. Mulch is just as effective on container soil as it is in garden soil. A small bag of mulch or wood chips can protect your container garden all year long.
Water Potted Plants Regularly – Potted soil heats up faster than garden soil. The soil in the containers on my east-facing porch is hot by 10:00 AM, as much as 3-4 degrees hotter than the surrounding air. The light, airy soil in pots is isolated from moisture in other parts of the ground and tends to dry out more quickly, especially on windy days. In summer containers need to be watered more frequently. Regularly check the water content of your container garden. Make this a part of your daily or weekly routine.
Shade Containers on Scorching Days – Herbs and other plants in pots are at risk of drying out on those days when the thermometer is in the danger zone. This is when you can take advantage of their mobility. In summer consider moving containers where they can get shade from the heat of the day. For your larger containers, you might want to purchase a wheeled platform to make it easier to move them.
Don’t Water Every Container the Same Amount – One advantage of growing in containers is that you can grow plants with widely varying water needs in the same general area. Rosemary and basil are at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to water needs. This is why I would never put them in the same pot. This is also why you should water moisture-hungry plants such as basil, lemon balm, and pineapple sage more than rosemary or garden sage, which prefer drier conditions.
If You Forget to Water — Unfortunately even the most careful gardener may miss watering their pots, causing them to dry out. Once potting soil dries it becomes resistant to re-absorption of water. Water from your hose flows over the surface, down the inside of the pot, and right out the drainage hole onto the ground. If this happens, the best solution is to soak the pot in a large tub or tray of water for several hours until the soil becomes thoroughly rehydrated. Drain excess water before restoring the pot to its place.