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Watering part 2

I ended the last article with a list of varying factors which have an impact on how and when to apply supplementary water to potted plants. Before I start to explore these variations, it might be worth saying that there are really no unbreakable rules as to when you should water – it all depends on the circumstances.

Obviously, it is preferable to water at a time when less will be lost to evaporation i.e. during the heat of the day. The risk of damage to root hairs and foliage is also minimised by watering before sunrise and/or after sunset.

However, if you have neglected to water in the morning or you have been away and your plant is wilting on your return then by all means water at any time as a life saving exercise. If you can, provide shade and avoid using water from a can or a hose-pipe that has been in the sun. The first water from a hose left lying in the sun can easily burn your hand and will definitely do your potted plants more harm than good. Run this water off until it cools either into your swimming pool or into a can then leave the can in the shade for later use.

Now I must digress a little:

There is another very important process going on in plants which I omitted from the last article – Respiration. For this process to occur the plant needs freely available Oxygen. This Oxygen is most easily taken in by the roots from air pockets within the compost (they can extract it from soil water but not as readily). Respiration is “running” 24/7 and breaks down the sugars generated by Photosynthesis during the day (stored in various plant cells) into a form of energy that can be used for cellular growth. In a healthy environment this means your plant grows and all is well.

Oh, I can see we are not going to get to the variations this time either – maybe next month!

So, we come to the crux of the issue – simply watering your plants at a set time every day without any regard for the state they are in will kill a lot of them. A plant which is too dry will wilt and die because it does not have the water to hold itself aloft or carry out the Photosynthesis vital to its own survival. A plant which is too wet will not have enough available Oxygen to carry out sufficient Respiration to allow for normal growth. The result in both cases is, or can be, plant death.

A few simple mechanisms to ensure that you are not over-watering your plants:

When you first pot your plant lift it up before you water it – how heavy is it? You can even use scales if you are that way inclined. Water it fully until water comes out into the saucer below, let it sit for a few minutes to reabsorb water then set aside to drain and feel the weight again. This is a potted plant at Field Capacity –meaning that it is holding as much water/Oxygen as necessary for healthy plant growth.

This approach is fine for smaller pots and even up to 10L or 15L pots, depending on your physical ability. Clearly as we move to larger pots, containers and troughs lifting becomes impractical. There is a plethora of devices out there to “help” keep your plants correctly watered – moisture meters, special pots with reservoirs/water gauges and (my personal favourite) the fine glass bowl with a flute which when filled with water, inverted and driven into the pot will water your plant all day!

You do not need any of these things – just your finger.

If the surface of your compost looks dry but the plant seems OK sick your finger in to see if it is moist below, if it is don’t water. If you can’t stick your finger in consider re-potting or changing the compost which is too compacted.

Test your plant – don’t water it one day and see how it reacts. It may be that your plant/pot is at 80% Field Capacity and the water you add returns it to 100% but most of it just drains out the bottom of the pot (leaching valuable nutrients with it) – a wasteful and unnecessary occupation. Keep a record of what you are doing and a close eye on any prized plants, I do not wish my advice to result in their demise. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Garden Masters | Tel: 95596698 or 24646698 | Email: gardenmasters@primehome.com

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