8 Tips for Healthy Crops in Pots
June 8, 2017
Edible container gardens can provide you with a continual abundance of homegrown vegetables, herbs, and fruit. With these tips for healthy crops in pots, you can save money and improve your health with delicious, freshly picked ingredients. Tuck in!
Adequate moisture is essential. It’s easier to kill your plants by overwatering than underwatering. Soil should feel moist, but not too wet or dry. 40-70% soil moisture is a good range for most plants. A moisture meter is a handy tool. It can save you wasting time and money by watering unnecessarily. Water-stressed plants are a green light for nature’s pest ‘clean-up crew’!
2. Plant Nutrition
It’s equally important to provide your edibles with a ‘soil pantry’ of soluble nutrients. Food crops are often heavy feeders. Like hungry teenagers constantly raiding the fridge! Rock minerals and trace elements, like those found in seaweed, help boost plant health. These vital nutrients help plants look vibrant, taste amazingly full of flavor and smell mouth-watering. Just like we get sick and suffer from ailments if our diet is lacking vitamins and minerals, it’s the same with our plants!
3. Soil Biology
An active living soil community with diverse microorganisms is essential for healthy plants. Microbes help feed nutrients back to your plants around their roots. Add compost, worm castings and organic matter to your potting mix. Don’t expect your plants to thrive in ‘dead dirt’.
4. Select Plants Carefully
There are many dwarf varieties of fruit trees and vegetables available now. You can grow your favorite foods without them being space hogs. Try miniature varieties of lettuce, dwarf beans, peas, kale, cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, and capsicum. Though the plant or crop may be smaller in size, you can still enjoy a generous harvest. Team up plants with similar water needs in the same pot. e.g. rosemary, garlic chives, aloe vera, thyme and oregano only need minimal watering.
5. Sufficient Sunlight
Find a balance between maximizing the space in your container, without overcrowding. Plants need adequate sunlight, moisture, and nutrients. Too much competition can weaken your plants. Have limited sunlight? Rotate or move your container on a portable trolley to a sunnier spot. Vertical structures and hanging baskets can help you take advantage of sunlight up off the ground.
6. Miracle of Mulch
A thick blanket of mulch is an ‘insurance policy’ for plants. Mulch regulates soil temperature; insulates seedlings against weather extremes; reduces plant stress; retains moisture; reduces watering, and minimizes weeds. It also helps build healthy living soil. Try coir peat; finely chopped straw, sugarcane, and lemongrass; leaf mold; or dry seed-free grass clippings.
7. Sow Little and Often.
Regular ‘succession’ planting every week or two will provide you with a continual supply of food for your kitchen. Sow seeds if you want to save money. Sow seedlings if you want to get a jump start and save waiting 3-4 weeks.
8. Plant for Pollinators.
To improve pollination of fruiting crops, like peas and strawberries, plant edible flowers in your pots to attract bees.