when to water????

zzackey(8b GA)April 17, 2012

I am growing my veggies and flowers for the first time in containers. I have no idea how to water. I feel I have a heavy hand now. Someone told me to wait until they wilt to water. I don't think this is right for tomatoes. They said it was. Help!

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I understand your frustration. Last year was my first year, and I was very unconfident in when to water. I was told the same thing. With tomatoes I think that waiting until they wil MAY be a little too long, as inconsistent watering could result in blosssom end rot. depending on soil, size of container, weather etc... there are so many variables to take into account. I ended up keeping a record of when I watered to help me establish a pattern. When it got hotter I had to water more frequently. I also used my fingers, and a wooden skewer to help tell when to water. I ended up watering, as general rule of thumb, when l could stick my finger in the soil as far as it would go, and the soil was dry.
Now with all that said this is my second year growing in containers, and my confidence is only a little better. I am using Al's 5-1-1 mix this year, and feel as though the finger method is much more reliable with the 5-1-1. Having gone through this last year, I know how frustrating it is. try to avoid over watering, if in doubt wait a day, or two, or three, really try to see how the leaves are during the later part of the day. Good luck!


    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 11:10PM
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The old adage, wait until the plant wilts, and then water the day before, may be funny but it's true.

Many new growers like the skewer method, but I agree with Josh, that I like the finger method is the best. Note, that moisture tends to feel cool rather then wet in fast draining soils. I do one additional step. If it is dry to my finger, I then lift the pot to make sure it's light. Reason I do that, is that in certain conditions such as low humidity, high wind or sun may dry the top of the pot while you still have lots of water in the bottom. If the top is dry, and the pot is light, then I water.

The tendency of most new growers is to overwater. Then when they have overwatering issues, they'll overcompensate and allow it to get to dry. The secret to gardening is moderation in all that you do. Don't overcompensate.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 8:15AM
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DaMonkey007(10b - Miami)

Hi Zackey,
First of all don't wait until your plants wilt, it's an unnecessary stress - there are far better ways to judge moisture in your pots. For most plants *even moisture* along with *proper aeration* is going to provide the best results. Of course, there are some plants that might appreciate drying out more than others, and conversely, some that might appreciate staying a bit more moist, but lets leave that for another time. Second, don't listen to anything else that that person told you!! LOL!

The truth is that you would have to work pretty hard to really overwater your plants in a properly made 5-1-1 or gritty. One of the main benefits of using these mixes is that you CAN water freely. This is not to be confused with watering for the sake of watering, timing is the key to your success. The goal is to keep the soil somewhere in the moisture range of a lightly wrung out sponge - not too wet, not too dry. All you have to do is figure out where that sweet spot is for each and every one of your containerized plantings...simple right? LOL!

Get yourself some long wooden skewers from the grocery store, and try out this procedure, it will help you get going in the right direction.


Here is a link that might be useful: Interpreting the Dowel

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 9:06AM
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dirtguy50 SW MO z6a(6a)

Zackey, first time container gardener here to. Would Al's 5:1:1 mix be good in the self watering systems like 5 gal buckets and homemade earthbox designs?? What wicking system would someone suggest? Thanks everyone!!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 9:43AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I felt like that person was telling me the wrong thing. I worked in 2 nurseries and a garden center. It was so easy to water there. We watered daily. I guess I need to try Al's gritty mix. I know how to touch the soil to check for moisture. I felt roots and I felt bad disturbing them. I have some bamboo stakes I can test the moisture level with. I am unable to lift the pots to check and see if they are light. I did that before and it works well. I guess I just have to resist the urge to water everything at the same time.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 4:24AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Wait until your plant is completely dry - then water the day before. ;-)


    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 2:04PM
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