Rain is particularly hard on balcony and patio gardeners. The actual rain drops really aren’t the problem most of the time. My gardening space is two stories below the overhang of my apartment building. Rain pours over that overhang and picks up speed until it blasts my plants like a hose. Last week we had an unexpected bout of rain and it literally ripped the leaves off my coleus and washed every iota of dirt out of the pot with my parsley plant.
If I owned my own home, I could fix the majority of my problems by installing rain gutters. But that’s not really possible for me, an apartment dweller, and I can only imagine the headache condo owners might go through trying to get their condo association to install gutters. In addition to being blasted by water coming off the roof, getting a bunch of water in a short amount of time overwhelms the drainage ability of my pots.
If you suffer from these problems too, I have some ideas for how to minimize a rain storm’s impact on your container garden.
For starters, if you know rain is coming, move all of your pots either completely under the overhang or completely exposed to the sky. In my experience, it’s better for a pot to get the full brunt of a rain storm than it is for the pot to be partially underneath the overhang and get the full brunt of any water running off the roof. If possible, put your smallest pots closest to to building and farthest away from the edge of the overhang (i.e. in your driest spot). I’ve noticed that small pots get hit by a double whammy. They get beaten down by the rain, and then if it is raining particularly hard, the rain splashing up from the concrete can contribute to over-watering or washing away of the soil. If you have room, try and get any seedlings or other delicate plants under the overhang too.
Another thing that you can do if you know rain is coming is to not water your pots. If the dirt in your pots is already moist, then it will easily become waterlogged with even a little rain. Using pot feet to raise your pots slightly off the ground is a good practice in general and will help the water drain out of the pot more quickly after a rain storm.
I’ve also noticed that my pots that have gravel covering the dirt don’t get as waterlogged and don’t have their dirt washed away. Maybe the gravel is able to repel some of the water. I haven’t tried regular mulch for this purpose, but I bet it would help prevent soil from being washed away. The pots with the least amount of exposed soil seem to have the least amount washed away. So planting your pots fully will not only look nice but help keep dirt in the pot. Not overfilling the pot with soil to begin with also helps.
Finally, if I know rain is coming and I have really tender seedlings that I can’t move, I’ll try and protect them with plastic sheeting or empty plastic nursery pots or even clean yogurt cups. Plastic sheeting it the best method if you’re trying to protect a large number of seedlings. I stick short bamboo stakes in several places and drape the sheeting over the stakes. Then I weigh down the edges of the sheeting with heavy pots, rocks, bricks, etc.
What have you done to prevent rain damage to your container garden?