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Eight ways to save work and water when you garden in containers.

Eight ways to save work and water when you garden in containers

If you want freedom from the tyranny of hand-watering containerplants, take a look at the eight options shown here. Each can reduce work remarkably on its own--combining several is even more effective. In one test, just adding mulch and clustering big wooden boxes reduced summer watering from once or twice daily to two or three times a week.

A pot 10 to 12 inches in diameter is the smallest we recommendfor outdoor use. Plants in larger containers, such as those shown in photograph 1, will need far less attention. If you must use smaller containers, double-pot (5) or sink pots directly into the ground. When you water, be sure to wet soil or grit in both inner and outer pots.

Asphalt roofing sealers (2) come in several consistencies. Brushon liquids are easiest to spread; gels are much easier to find and can also be brushed on when warm, but are messier and take longer to apply (they are especially effective on wood). On wooden containers, paint the sealer all the way to the rim; otherwise, staves drying out above the soil line leave gaps that let water escape. You may also find clear sealers made for pottery; paint these on both inside and outside. In all cases, make sure the container is clean before you start.

You can buy soil polymers (3) under the name Broadleaf P4 atmany nurseries and supermarkets. for more information on how to use polymers, see page 252 of the April Sunset.

If your own garden doesn't supply materials suitable for mulching,you can buy the ones shown in picture 4 for $1 to $4 per cubic foot. Find suppliers in the yellow pages under Topsoil--or ask at nurseries or garden centers.

Drip systems (7) continue to become more versatile. Buyingindividual components instead of ready-made kits of often lets you build a system better adapted to your needs. Many irrigation suppliers will help you design a small, simple system for little or no charge; look in the yellow pages under Irrigation Systems and Equipment.

Last but not least, begin with unthirsty plants (picture 8).

Photo: 1. Use big pots--the largest size suitable for the plants and space you have in mind. These are about 16 inches deep and 13 to 18 inches wide. All big pots dry out more slowly than small ones; glazed pottery takes the longest. Wood insulates soil, and light colors reflect heat--important in very hot climates

Photo: 2. Paint porous containers on the insidewith asphalt roofing adhesive or sealer to slow down water loss. You can leave clay and concrete pots unsealed above the soil line for better appearance

Photo: 3. Add water-holding soil polymers. Last year, these twomarguerites looked the same. The one at right got 1 tablespoon of dry soil polymer (equivalent to 2 cups wet) mixed into the soil at planting time. Given identical care, the one in untreated soil died in a few months

Photo: 4. Mulch surface with 1 to 2 inches of cobbles, bark,rough compost, stones, or gravel. All will slow evaporation. Rocks absorb some heat; organic materials stay cooler but can float away

Photo: 5. Double-pot. Extra inches insulate and keep roots cool.This is especially important in the desert--and for plants that don't like or can't survive frequent watering

Photo: 6. Group plants together to share midday shadeand wind protection. Rafters, walls, and shared humidity help this collection thrive

Photo: 7. Water with drip--preferably on a timer. That puts allthe water where you want it. Grouped plants can share a 1/4-inch-diameter line; use T-joints to add emitters

Photo: 8. Use unthirsty plants. Clockwise from terra cottachicken, choices shown are hen and chicks, cycad, and bottle palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jul 1, 1987
Words:628
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