Regulating Moisture in Garden Beds, Baskets, and Containers
Posted on: Tuesday, June 16, 2020
All living things, including our beloved plants, need water to survive. It comes as no surprise that California likes to bring the heat each summer, so how can we protect our plants by ensuring the soil they’re in retains moisture? We have some simple tips to help you out. Plus, besides helping your plants to thrive, you’ll reduce water waste by extending the time between watering!
How to Retain Moisture in Your Garden
Whether you're planting garden beds or containers, including hanging baskets, here are some general things to keep in mind.
- Water the soil, not the plant, and water well. The roots of a plant are what take up the water, and standing water on a plant’s leaves can lead to disease. Slowly add water to the soil rather than directly onto the plant.
- Shade cover keeps the soil from drying out fast. Plants have different sun requirements, and if the tag says it can grow in some shade, give it some! You can add patio furniture like umbrellas or plant trees to keep areas shaded. Also, use the plants themselves to provide shade — for example, grow shade-loving lettuce under tall tomato plants in the same garden bed or container.
- More soil takes longer to dry out. This means larger containers retain moisture longer than small ones. The same goes for garden beds — if you have trouble with your garden drying out, opt for a deeper bed that requires more soil.
- Amend the soil. Add organic material like compost, sphagnum peat moss, or worm castings to the soil. This increases the ability of the soil to hold on to water.
- Spread mulch around the plants. In garden beds and larger containers, add a layer of mulch that’s about two to four inches thick, but keep it away from the base of the plants. Mulch not only looks nice by providing a backdrop for your plants, but it also retains moisture.
How Do You Stop Containers From Drying Out?
Container gardens are a great way to maximize the space you have to work with, plus they add color and interest to your landscape. Here are some tips to stop containers from drying out in the California heat.
- Plant in fewer large pots rather than many small ones. Smaller pots dry out quicker, so group plants that have similar growing requirements in one container, keeping in mind how much space they need to grow.
- Line the container with plastic pot liners or even a grocery bag. Make sure to add some drainage holes, too. Hanging baskets seem to dry out especially quickly, but adding a liner can keep in the moisture your plants need.
- Consider using a self-watering pot. If you're not able to check on your garden's water needs during the day, self-watering pots maintain a consistent moisture level in the soil.
How Do You Keep Moisture in a Garden Bed?
Since we can’t rely on Mother Nature to keep our garden beds perfectly watered, we have to help our plants out. Here are some things to consider.
- Plant native species. These plants are best adapted to the local conditions, including rainfall amounts.
- Weed regularly. Weeds compete with your garden plants for water and nutrients. By removing weeds, you’ll leave more water available in the soil for your plants.
- Put raised garden beds in a spot where a hose is easily accessible. This saves you from running back and forth, filling up your watering can.