One of the best containers you can use for container gardening is a terracotta pot. It’s biodegradable and keeps the potting soil cool. But it has the problem of drying out.
You can keep the terracotta pots from drying out by using a drip-irrigation system or a self-watering mechanism. You can add mulch to the top of the potting soil. Or add water crystals into the potting soil. It’s also good to water the pot in the morning so it has time to absorb moisture.
I’ve written a lot more details below on how you can use each of these methods for your terracotta pots.
Water pots in the morning
The easiest thing you can do is water your terracotta pots in the morning. This will give the potting soil sufficient time to absorb the moisture before the sun comes out.
Make sure to water only the potting soil and avoid splashing water on the foliage. This helps prevent fungal diseases on your plant.
Use a watering can and water the potting soil thoroughly till the water drips out from the drainage holes at the bottom.
This ensures that the potting soil has enough moisture that the plant’s roots can utilize.
Add mulch to the potting soil
Another easy option is to add mulch to the potting soil. Mulch is any organic material you can find in a garden such as dried leaves, grass clippings, straw, wood chips, moss, or hay.
You need to add a layer of this mulch on top of the potting soil. The mulch will protect the potting soil from the heat. This helps keep the terracotta pot and the potting soil from drying out.
After some time, the organic mulch will decompose and enrich the potting soil. So you’ll need to keep adding a little mulch every few months.
Use a self-watering container
A self-watering container has two sections in it. One is for the potting soil and the other is a reservoir to hold the water.
This means you can fill the reservoir with water and the potting soil can get the moisture for several days. This happens due to the potting soil wicking the water from the reservoir.
Most self-watering pots are made with plastic so you may not find one with terracotta. But you can make one yourself.
You can use a rope or string that can absorb water. Fill a bucket with water and place one end of the rope in it so it touches the bottom.
Place the other end of the rope 3-4 inches inside the potting soil in the terracotta pot. When the soil dries out, it will pull the moisture out of the wick.
Use drip irrigation
This can be a little more expensive option of using a drip irrigation system for your container garden. And it makes sense only if you have several plants growing in containers.
The drip irrigation system will help you water all the pots without having to do it yourself. You could even set up a timer that will automatically start watering the pots at the required time every day and stop when it’s sufficient.
The system will provide a slow drip of water supply to your terracotta pots and ensure they don’t dry out.
Add water beads to the potting soil
Another option you have is to mix in some water beads with the potting soil in the terracotta pots. These water beads soak in the water when you water the potting soil.
And they will release this water slowly back to the potting soil over a period of time. This helps the terracotta pots and the potting soil remain moist for a longer period of time.
How to water the terracotta pots
Terracotta is a porous material which means it loses water faster than other materials like plastic. This happens due to the evaporation of water from its pores.
This can be good and bad for the plant and potting soil. It’s good because the evaporation helps keep the potting soil temperature regulated. It’s bad because the potting soil loses moisture faster and you have the risk of it turning dry.
When using terracotta pots for growing plants, you need to check the moisture level of the soil every day. You may need to do this more often in the summer when the water can evaporate even faster.
The easiest way to do this is to stick your finger 1-2 inches inside the potting soil. If the tip of the finger does not feel moisture, it’s time to water the potting soil.
You can use a watering can to water the potting soil thoroughly till it seeps out from the drainage holes at the bottom. If the soil has dried out too much, you may have to do this several times so it can get the texture back.
Your plants will need the potting soil to be loose and well-draining so there are good moisture and aeration in it.
If the water is just flowing out of the bottom without getting into the potting soil, it may be too dry. You’ll need to take the pot and soak it in a larger container or your kitchen sink filled with water till the soil soaks the water and gets loose.
If you’re placing the pot indoors, make sure it has a tray at the bottom that can catch the draining water from the potting soil. Make sure to empty the tray when the water has filled in it.
Otherwise, the water will go back into the potting soil and you risk overwatering the roots. This can lead to problems like root rot that can kill the plant.
How to take care of your terracotta pots
Now that you know how to keep your terracotta pots from drying out, you also need to keep a few tips in mind to prevent other problems.
Clean the terracotta pot
If you don’t keep the terracotta pot clean, there’s a good chance it will become a breeding ground for pests and diseases that attack the plant.
The best time to clean the pots is after the growing season. Take the entire potting soil out of the pot before you clean it. Spray it with water till all the soil is washed away. You can use a scrub with soap water to remove any remaining soil and again wash it clean with water.
Once the soil is removed, you need to sterilize the pot so it’s free from any diseases. There are several methods you can use to do this like heating the pot in an oven or soaking it in bleach or vinegar.
I think the easiest method is to soak the terracotta pot in bleach. You need to create a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water. Then apply this solution to all areas of the pot. If you have a larger bucket you can soak the entire pot in it.
Keep the solution applied on the pot for at least an hour and then clean it off by spraying water on it. Let the pot dry out and then it will be ready for use.
Fix the terracotta pot
Terracotta is brittle and it can crack if you drop it or the temperature becomes too cold. You want to avoid this problem because once a crack develops, it will eventually break apart the pot.
But as a temporary option, you can seal the cracks if they are small. After you have washed and dried the pot, you can use good marine epoxy to seal any cracks you find.
Winterize the terracotta pot
If the growing season has ended, then you can just store the terracotta pot after you have cleaned it. Place it in a cool, dry place that is warm enough.
Terracotta does not prefer the cold temperature as it is brittle and will crack.
Soak the terracotta pot in water
Once the growing season arrives, you can reuse your terracotta pot. Make sure to clean it again with water before using it.
You also want to soak the terracotta pot in water for at least 24 hours. This helps prevent it from pulling water from the potting soil when you water the plant.
It will also prevent the pot from drying out and developing cracks if the weather is hot.