Container Gardening - Soil Temperature and Perched Water Table

The Zucchini 'Squash Contender' I planted in a large container was not successful. The leaves were not growing very big, maybe a couple inches, and growth seemed to be stunted. The container itself (light teal colored plastic) was very hot to the touch with direct sunlight. Also after discarding the plants and all the soil, the bottom of the container soil was very wet. This is a common problem with container grown plants in the Florida heat and humidity. When excess moisture remains in the bottom of your containers, it's called the Perched Water Table. Basically the soil is always saturated and will not drain from the bottom.

So I'm making a few adjustments. First, I spray painted the container a flat white to reflect light and reduce heat within the soil. Remember, the darker the container color, the more heat it will absorb. Second, by sitting the container on a couple 2x4's raises it a couple inches off the ground improving air flow as well. Keeping the soil cool is key for optimal root growth and plant strength. And finially, I'm using cut nylon strands from a mop as a wicking system. This nylon material absorbs moisture easily and will wick excess moisture out of the container. I used (6) 14" long nylon strands, with 7" inside the container and the remaining 7" laying on the ground outside the container. The idea is for sunlight to evaporate moisture from the nylon strands as it wicks moisture out from underneath the container.

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