Traditionally August is the roughest month for anything planted in a container. Coming off this past month, however, July is giving August a run for its money. It was hot, and your containers—and even yourself—may be showing signs of stress. In fact, some of your container plantings may have succumbed to the heat. Truth: I just chucked two into my compost pile last week. Too much travel and not enough rain!
We’re here to help your existing containers make it through to the close of summer, or at the very least, give you some tips on how to plant heat-surviving containers for next season—or even for the remainder of this season, should you want to jump back on that horse.
Essentially the issue with heat stress is that heat pulls water up and out of both the plant and the pot. So the question becomes, how can we keep moisture plentiful? We have three suggestions as answers to this problem.
Add Compost to Your Containers
When potting up new containers, add compost to your potting mix, or use a potting mix with compost already added in. Composted materials are replete with nooks and crannies, and instead of holding butter they hold water really well. A compost-rich media will keep more water available in the container for use by the plants.
Add Earthworm Castings
The castings left by earthworms help to hold moisture in the root zone, as well. When mixed into a potting media, these wormy left-behinds help to keep water in the soil and available for plant roots rather than having that moisture evaporate from the mix.
You can find both compost and earthworm castings in our Premium Blend Potting Soil, so you’ll get a double dose of water conservation action. Perhaps you just need the earthworm castings. We’ve got those for you to—our Worm Castings come in 1 lb. and 5 lb. bags.
Sidedress with Rice Hulls
Limit water evaporation from the potting soil surface by covering it with a loose material such as Rice Hulls. A product such as buckwheat hulls would work, too, but it tends to be pricey and much of the product is shipped from overseas. Our Rice Hulls are 100% grown in the U.S.A. and are readily available to ship. And here’s another bonus: Rice hulls have been shown to deter fungus gnats.
Water Containers Wisely
Now that your potting mix is holding moisture better, it’s time to learn how to water wisely. During hot periods, your casual “oh, right I have to water” practices of spring and early summer will not suffice. Expect your containers to need watering every day when daytime temperatures are above 90! After plants are fully rooted into Organic Mechanics soils, by August you should be able to go two to three days without watering—IF you started with a large enough pot size.
- If you are watering by hand, conserve water by aiming the nozzle or the watering can directly at the potting mix, not the foliage.
- Turn the strength of the nozzle down low. This allows the water to slowly seep into the soil before it spills over the container’s rim.
- Water the surface repeatedly to allow moisture to saturate the soil profile. Move between pots and go back to the first pot to repeat the surface soaking. This method uses the same amount of water and the same amount of your time, but watering smaller amounts repeatedly replicates a soaking rain.
- Water in the early morning or early evening. This allows the plants to access water before the heat of the day.
- Use drip tubing. It may seem complicated to set up, but it’s worth the effort. Many smaller tubes with emitters are positioned off a main hose, which ideally is set up on an automatic timer. Just drop these off-shoots into the container. Move them on occasion to prevent the water from forming a single channel through the container. It happens!
- Use “gray” water! For example, cool the water used to boil eggs and reuse it in your containers. Any water without detergents and added salt, oil and such can be used in your containers.
Lastly, position your containers so they receive some amount of shade. I know, I know‚—if you’re growing vegetables, you want as much light as possible. But you can still get a good 6-plus hours of sunlight if your containers are shaded for a bit in the late morning or early afternoon. And the best thing about growing in containers? You can move them into and out of the shade. Talk about being wise.