Pot growing recommended

By: Dee Pignéguy

 How is my garden growing? The raised beds are full of onions, leeks and garlic all of which are loving this colder weather, and the brassicas are forging ahead without the white butterfly attacks. I tried a new mix of cauliflowers this season, and although they are decorative I will be sticking to the plain old white ones in the future.

But the real success story is the self-watering containers which are lining my deck. I had given up using traditional containers but the selection of self-watering containers have really rekindled my “pot” growing. Basically, self-watering pots include a place for the water, a place for the loose easy-draining soil, a way to keep the soil and water apart, and a way to bring the soil and water together.

They have a reservoir in the bottom covered with a perforated inner plate (false bottom). This allows the water to be wicked up by capillary action to the potting mix that sits on top of the inner plate. The watering funnel on one end shows the water level in the reservoir and the cross-cut holes on the side allow excess water to escape during heavy rains. The false bottom keeps the soil away from the water and allows air to reach the soil underneath.

The idea is based on the floating garden system developed by the Aztecs. Vegetables need to grow fast and be supplied with plenty of water and nutrients. Plants also need a balance of water and air and don’t like the cycle of wet to dry and back to wet again which is typical of traditional containers.

One of the big problems with traditional pots and containers is the loss of soil nutrients when you water, but with self-watering containers I just refill the watering funnel with my liquid manure—a mixture of seaweed, organic cow manure and fish, every so often. These nutrients are retained.

This method of watering is ideal for under-cover gardens, and as watering is all done from the reservoir by wicking upwards, there is no splashing onto plants and the top layer of the soil is dry, so there is less risk of moulds. These containers are perfect for turning my sheltered, sunny deck into a lush garden of edibles.

A note of caution – use potting mix or aged compost but not garden soil, which could bring in fungal diseases.

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