July 10, 2013 | Donna Balzer
Under layers of sunscreen, a hat and long sleeve sun protective clothing I am on holidays, kayaking in 30-plus heat. I know how to protect myself from the heat of the sun but back home; the plants in patio pots can't be left to their own resources. Luckily there are a few things gardeners can do to help plant pots thrive through weather extremes this summer.More than once I have read the headlines of firefighters having to put out fires started on balconies in apartment buildings. The issue? Dry peat moss in plant pots. If you decided not to plant your pots this year, remove them from sunny south patios to storage because the waxy coating on peat moss could spontaneously ignite if left in the sun, or if a cigarette is extinguished in the pot. If pots are planted but time is limited, use a micro-drip watering system — which connects to a hose outlet with a timer and special nozzels — for two to five minutes of watering daily.
When the weather is hot and there aren't any outdoor water outlets for micro-irrigation, plants in pots can be grouped on a balcony and put under a patio umbrella. This is ideal for short-term occasions such as a long weekend or a long Stampede day. Before heading out, place your pots in drip trays full of water as well as watering the pots well.
Even cool sunny days will dry out pots or plant roots if they are on a wind-exposed balcony. Tie a windshelter material such as a sturdy fabric or bamboo fence to the railing of a balcony to break the wind on an exposed-rail style balcony. If using wire baskets, line them with plastic and put a decorative fabric over it to keep the roots from drying.
Removing large flowers — or deadheading plants — just before you leave for a break stops the plants from making ugly seed pods. Instead, the plants make new flower buds and if you are lucky, they will burst into bloom just before you return home again.
Plants in pots are not in a natural environment and can't reach out through natural soil fungus to get the goodies they need to thrive. Instead, you will have to water and fertilize your plants often to keep them in prime condition this summer. Ideally use multi-purpose or bloom boosting water-soluble fertilizers mixed at half rate every time you water.
Balzer speaks and writes about gardening, tweets @NoGuffGardener and blogs at www.gardenguru.net.