Watering Tips From Evelyn
Watering tips and other helpful hints. No one can give you everything you need to know about watering but we hope this helps.
Pots and baskets and lots of other places too.
How much and how often is the age-old question. It depends on weather, the plant and often what kind of plant we are talking about. Some plants come back easily from getting dry. Other plants take a real hit and take a while to come back up. Most baskets like to be watered at least every other day. Sometimes they can adjust to every third day It depends on the plant variety and how much soil is in the basket to store water. For a while with a new basket or pot it is up to you to watch how soon the plant begins to stress out for lack of water. A fuchsia in a basket will wilt in the hot afternoon and perk up in the evening. That same fuchsia will die if you forget to water it for several days in a row. An impatiens will wilt just as fast but is much better about recovering after a wilt.
Most begonias, especially tuberous begonias do not like to be overwatered. Twice a week is often plenty. It’s never a hard and fast answer. A basket in a heavy soil will not dry out so fast but has a bigger chance of being overwatered. A big Moss basket with Encanto Begonia spilling out and over will have more soil to store moisture than that same Encanto begonia in a 10 inch pot. Same size plant but not the same amount of soil.
How big are the plants. Take that same moss basket with young small plants just beginning to grow and you may only water once a week. Let that basket plant grow for 6 months and you have more roots and more plant and less soil that is not already being used. Let that same basket grow and grow and grow and the roots have used up 85% of the soil space and that basket is wilting in a day or two and screaming for a drink.
We have moisture meters and they work very well for indoor plants and pretty well for outdoors. Always use your fingers and your brains along with a moisture meter. If the moisture meter reads wet and the soil is dry with the plant wilting; use your brain.
Container plants are dependent on you or an irrigation system to give it the moisture it needs . Soon you will have a good feeling for how often to water that particular basket in average weather. You will understand that if we have a heat wave your plants would need an extra drink. You can help in a heat wave by grouping baskets and plants close together in the shadiest coolest spot. Not in a heat wave water on your regular schedule.
What you can learn and also the most important thing to learn.
When a plant begins to dry, the leaves turn a duller color and begin to turn inwards just a little bit. If you practice letting a few plants begin to get dry you will soon be able to see that subtle change in foliage, you know that the plant has used up the moisture and is beginning to stress out.
That is assuming you are outside and looking at the right time. The information below doesn’t begin to cover everything but may help you understand that how you water is as important as how much you water.
When you water make sure that you water slowly so that the water goes into all the soil. Even when you have an automatic watering system it is good to move that emitter around to a different place once in a while so that the water isn’t just going down in a straight line.
Baskets and hanging containers.
If the water goes right through and out the bottom immediately, check to make sure the soil is really getting watered. Lots of times the water is just going around the edges of the root ball and out the bottom.
Here is an example: You forgot or there simply wasn’t enough time to water those hanging baskets or other potted plants. You come home and the plant is totally wilted, the soil is dry and Oh boy, what to do now?
If you just take the hose and fill the pot you see the water coming out of the bottom and think you have watered it. Wrong! You wet 1/8th of an inch of the soil on the edges. Find a shallow pan or a bucket and set your plant in that and then water. That water will probably drain right out into the pan and then the plant can begin to slowly soak that water back up into all the soil. Often takes an hour or so. Don’t leave your plant sitting in water for hours and hours. That begins to drown the roots. All plant roots need oxygen too. That is the tiny air spaces in the soil.
Plants that have just been transplanted into your garden need more frequent watering until those roots begin to grow into the adjoining soil. A plant that has just been planted in the ground or in a pot needs a soft gently flow of water several times. This allows the soil to settle in next to the roots so there isn’t any air space between them.
You forgot or there simply wasn’t enough time to water those hanging baskets or other potted plants. You come home and the plant is totally wilted, the soil is dry and OH Dear what to do now? If you just takethe hose and fill the pot you see the water coming out of the bottom and think you have watered it. Wrong! You wet 1/8th of an inch of the soil on the edges. Find a shallow pan or a bucket and set your plant in that and then water. That water will probably drain right out into the pan and then the plant can begin to slowly soak that water back up into all the soil. Often takes an hour or so. Don’t leave your plant sitting in water for hours and hours. That begins to drown the roots. All plant roots need oxygen too. That is the tiny air spaces in the soil.
General rule of thumb when planting new plants into the ground. Dig a big enough hole, Water the hole, water the plant. Then plant and gently push the soil down around the root area. Water again. Don’t add a liquid or other fertilizers right then. It will not make your plant grow overnight and may burn those new exposed roots. Wait a week. It’s ok to sprinkle some granular fertilizer in the bottom of the hole, cover with some soil and then plant.
Always water plants before you fertilize. Especially if you are using a liquid feed. To fertilize a dry plant with a liquid mix is like having two martinis on an empty stomach. The plant sucks up all that fertilizer and gets a big hangover.
When a plant dries out too quickly. This is usually because the roots have filled all the available soil space. There is less soil space to store the drink your plant is getting.
In the ground those roots can go down or out and pull water from the soil even many feet away. In a container this is not possible. When your plant dries out what seems like all the time it’s time to investigate. Take your plant out of the container and look at the roots and the soil space. Chances are it either needs a bigger house or to be divided and made into two or more plants.
How do you know if you can divide or not. Look at the main stem or trunk. If it is just one main stem coming up you can’t divide it. If there are multiple plants give it a try. You cannot divide a tree rose or a tree fuchsia. Many times we as growers will plant 2 or 3 small plants in one pot so that you get a nice full plant more quickly. If you see three plants in the pot you can try to divide it into 3 separate plants, repot and then you have more soil to store water. Most of the time the plants don’t look very good until they totally grow back. When in doubt ask one of us or Google in How to divide a particular plant.
See what the experts say. You always take a chance when you divide a plant but a little risk makes life more exciting.
Your plant wilts but it is still wet.
If on the other hand your plant takes forever to dry out and is really heavy when you lift it. If it wilts even though the soil is wet then it has been over watered and some or most of the roots have drowned This often allow fungal types of diseases to attack the roots When you begin to think of the roots and the stems like your house’s plumbing you will have gone a long way into understanding watering. The roots are like water pipes bringing water to your sink or shower. If those tiny plant water pipes become destroyed then water can’t reach the foliage part of your plant and it wilts. How do you know if your plant’s piping system is good or rotting away. If you can take the plant out of the pot you will see a network of very fine roots. If those are white and light colored your plumbing is good and your plant may just need a bigger home. If those roots are brown and you can run your fingernail down them and they just fall apart you are in trouble. There lots of virus’s or fungal diseases out there. Just like in people It is almost impossible to fight a virus. Some of those attack the plant’s plumbing pipes that you see as the main stems and cause them to go bad. If you open up a stem, like maybe a tomato stem and you see that inside is sort of brown and streaky then the plumbing is all fouled up and your plant can’t bring the water up from the soil into the leaves and branches of the plant.
Most of the time you might as well just dump the plant and move on. Sometimes on a hot day the plant may be well watered but it is wilting in the heat and just taking a little siesta. Wait to water until it cools down. If your plant then is drooping and the soil is dry, then give it a drink.
Ae you really watering?
When you have automatic sprinklers like Rainbird heads or other irrigation heads that spray out water over your garden it is useful to know just how much water is actually reaching different parts of your garden. Gather up a bunch of aluminum pie tins and place them around your yard. Turn your system on to its’ regular cycle and then see how much water is reaching the target pie pan. Most of those little heads that spray out the water come in different sizes and amounts. If your eyes are better than mine you can read it on the head —Half, Three quarters, or full round spray and how far they are supposed to reach. Just a few grains of sand can foul it all up. If calcium builds up soaking it in vinegar helps.
Avoid hand watering where you are standing with the hose and just splashing the water around. This is the worst kind of watering.
How often for plants that are established in your garden.
Again, it depends on all of the above. Water with your normal cycle, wait an hour or so and then dig down into the soil out around the drip line of your plant. See how far down the water went. Just an inch or so will keep those roots up near the surface where they will always dry out more quickly.
California Natives, succulents and other plants. For most California Natives, they naturally get watered in the winter and spring. That’s when we get rain. They have adjusted to none or very little water in the summer. They won’t look very happy but watering too much in the summer may eventually kill them. Bring your color and blooms in near your patio with containers full of blooming plants. Plants that are native to other parts of our world have different needs. Think of where they came from and try to adjust to that. Some plants don’t care and others do.
Wind and then there is that wind tunnel where the wind is always coming through. No plants like a constant wind. A gentle breeze but not wind. Wind dries out the plant. Grassy foliage, plants that have tough leathery or thick stems and leaves survive best. Kangaroo paws can take more wind. Ficus plants of many kinds are more wind tolerant.
Plants with a salt spray needs the foliage sprayed off frequently. You can grow near the beach but it takes more skill.
Succulents are a little different. They can take more abuse but a lot depends on if they are summer dormant or not. They can often stand really get dry and still survive or come back to looking good when you do water them. Again, it’s the old rule. When you water make sure you water well, then go away and have a drink yourself.
It all depends on where they are in your house. A house plant near a bright window will need water more often than the same plant tucked away in your darkest corner. The nicest watering you can give your house plants is often in the bathtub or on the patio where the foliage can be washed off with clear water. Watering several times in a row while making sure that the plant has really good drainage will rinse out much of the salt that occurs in our water. It’s just like rinsing the soap out of your hair or your clothes.
Always make sure that your plants have good drainage holes and are sitting up off of the ground or floor. Don’t assume, don’t guess.
These extra hints that have nothing to do with watering.
Check the bottom of pots for slugs. They love to feed on the roots. Especially Alstroemerias. Go out after dark and check for Earwigs, snails, slugs and other night time critters. Skunks can really make a mess of your lawn or your garden beds as they root around looking for grubs. These are often the grubs that become those beautiful green iridescent Scarab beetles. There is a Beneficial nematode that you can water into your soil that will go after grubs and destroy them. Harmless, invisible and a must if skunks are a problem.
That’s all for now. Don’t forget to drink lots of water. Evelyn
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