keep crops in pots cool

Crops in pots

Plants in containers dry out faster as the weather warms up. There are things you can do to minimise heat stress in your potted patch, from pot selection and positioning to judicious use of additives. Here are 10 ideas to get you started.

1 gather your pots
Group your containers together to help create a more favourable microclimate where neighbouring plants shade each other and their pots.

2 swap your crops
Pull out lingering cool-season crops, and replace them with heat-tolerant ones, such as tomato, eggplant, cucumber and chilli. These will give you more joy than, say, coriander or heart-forming lettuces, which bolt to seed in warm weather.

3 go big
The smaller the pot, the faster the potting mix will dry out. Where possible, upgrade your small containers to larger ones that can hold more mix and, therefore, more moisture.

4 swap the terracotta
Terracotta pots are super porous, allowing moisture to escape fast. Switch to plastic or glazed pots. If you really love terracotta, then paint the inside surfaces with a pot sealant before planting.

5 use self-watering pots
These and mini wicking troughs have a reservoir of water in the base and are a godsend for edible plants during the hot months. Get some now!

6 make friends with seaweed
Apply a seaweed solution every fortnight to help strengthen plant cells and reduce the impact of heat stress.

7 grab some shade
If possible, move pots to a spot that offers some shade in the middle of the day or the afternoon. Alternatively, erect some shadecloth to give your potted edibles some respite.

8 step up the watering
It’s obvious, but as the temperature increases so does the need to water more frequently. For potted edibles, this often means daily top-ups.

9 use wetting agents
As potting mix ages, it often becomes water repellent, so even if you water frequently, it may never truly wet the mix. To resolve this issue, apply an organic wetting agent.

10 mulch away
Many gardeners mulch garden beds but forget about pots. Sugarcane mulch is ideal for potted produce, but if wind is an issue, consider using chunky bark mulch or a layer of pebbles instead.

You’ll find plenty of information to help you plant and care for your edible crops in the October 2021 issue of ABC Gardening Australia magazine, out now.