10 Tips for Drought-Tolerant Container Gardens
Topic: How-To Tips
With all of the record breaking heat and drought this summer, your garden might be a little on the crispy side. While you may not be able to quench your whole garden's thirst, it's easy to keep up with the watering needs of a container garden. With container gardens; water isn't sucked up by the ground like a sponge and you can use saucers to collect runoff. Keep your pots near the back door or hose for easy watering and move them to the shade on the hottest days. Here are some other ways to keep a lush container garden amid a record breaking summer.
Choose a Non-Porous Container
That is, use a container that doesn't soak up water like a sponge such as the typical terra cotta pots. If you do decide to use a terra cotta pot, either look for one that is glazed on the inside or be prepared to water more often.
Bigger is Better
The larger the container, the longer it takes for the soil to dry up. Larger containers also keep the roots cooler, which is especially useful in a heat wave. If you're combining plants into one container, incorporate a ground cover or mulch to prevent evaporation.
Safety in Numbers
If you have a bunch of plants in smaller pots, keep them from drying out by grouping them together. The shade in between the containers cools the plants' roots, prevents evaporation and gives the plants a little more time to soak up the water before it goes up in a puff.
Protect the Soil
Mulch is for containers too! While the mulch you use in the landscape might be a little coarse, add a decorative mulch of stones, orchid bark or gravel to keep moisture in the soil where it belongs. Trailing plants and vines also serve this purpose!
Select Drought Tolerant Plants
photo by Steve Asbell
It might seem like an obvious tip, but container gardening is a lot easier with drought tolerant plants. If they haven't perished already, ditch the puny annuals and plant some water-wise succulents, grasses and cacti. Want flowers? Blanketflower, Madagascar periwinkle, geraniums and yarrow are only a few of the tougher flowers to choose from.
"Drought Tolerant Once Established"
Just because a plant is labeled as "drought tolerant" doesn't mean that it's ready for a full helping of abuse. First the plant has to develop long, thick roots that absorb the water and retain it between waterings. When repotting plants, gently pry the roots apart and spread them out. Water deeply after planting to make sure that the roots aren't surrounded by air.
Soak Water Up Like a Sponge
If you're attempting anything other than desert plants in a container, they will benefit from a moisture retentive potting mix. You can usually find mixes specifically formulated to retain water, but if that's not available you can add peat moss or composted bark to an existing mix.
It may be tempting to water a little bit at a time, but this doesn't allow water to reach the roots at the bottom of the container and doesn't allow for healthy root development. Water thoroughly, and you'll produce a more durable and drought tolerant plant that will require less watering.
Don't Let Water Run Off
Does it ever seem like water goes right through the pot and all over the ground? Use plastic or terracotta saucers to keep that water in place just long enough for it to get absorbed. Plants shouldn't sit in water for long though, so if any water is still standing after an hour, be sure to tip it out.
Don't Water in Broad Daylight
Not only is it uncomfortable for you to water containers in the full heat of a summer day, it's wasteful and harmful to your plants. Water containers early in the morning or in the evening so that the water doesn't get lost to evaporation. Plants also find it much easier to have a drink when they're no stressed out by mid-day heat.
|Garden Recipes||Greenland Gardener Products|
|Growing Fruits||How-To Tips|
|Raised Bed Gardening||Seeds|
|Trees and Shrubs||Vegetables|