Balanced Watering - Can't figure out the balance...

saoodhashimSeptember 30, 2013

I have seen articles and books discussing watering container plants where generally it is mentioned that you might require daily or even twice a day watering if you live in a hot climate and the way they generally tell us to check is to feel the moisture 1-2 inch down the surface of the soil.

Being in Saudi Arabia, the temperatures do get above 95 and sometimes touching 100-102. However, I generally shade my plants with a 50% cloth after 10am.

I have noted that by sticking my finger upto the second knuckle, I generally find it somewhat moist the next day - and at times I skip watering the next morning following the rule prescribed by conventional wisdom. Quite a few times it has happened that when I have skipped watering the next morning, the soil becomes too dry by 10-11 am when the temperature have shot up > 95 - dry to the extent that the surface soil becomes so light that it could be blown away by light breeze. Therefore I feel I should water each day in the morning irrespective of the fact whether I feel it is moist down upto the 2nd knuckle or not. But then I fear over watering? In a fix over here. Can someone help me over this.

I am also a bit conscious about my soil and containers. Again as prescribed by the rule of watering to water until the water is seen draining out of the drainage holes. I do that and the water does start draining out in 10-15 seconds. However, the drainage stops only after 1-2 hours. Is that something to worry about?

Am I over watering?

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

It sounds like you doing everything right. I'm not sure i would change watering pattern unless you're having problems. Then see if the increased watering solves the problem I would think some plants would like the increased watering whereas others would not. Also the fact you
are aware of possible soil and container problems, seems you have a good handle on the situation. Some plants are going to shut down in extreme heat. So no matter what you do, it's not going to work. An example is tomatoes usually will not fruit if temps are above 86 F. Now some cultivars do better than others. Finding the heat lovers to grow would be advisible.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 6:11AM
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saoodhashim

Actually these plants are I think some time away from flowering and fruiting. I think they would be a month old. I have had them for around 2 weeks.

As for watering, I feel the pepper plant is ok with the temperature and watering schedule. Its the tomato that I feel is not happy. I see yellow marks on the bigger plant in the center of some of its leaves and the smaller one seems to be developing that yellow mark around the border of some of its leaves.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 6:40AM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

Welcome by the away from across the pond!

have you thought about covering the top of your pots with a light layer of mulch or bark pieces to slow the drying on process on the couple of inches of top mix?

It always works for me...

How about cut wet pieces of cloth layed on top so that teh top stays moist while everything deeper dries out evenely with the top?

In some of my pots I even cut black bug screen to the size that I need to cover the mix on top of my pots and it keeps the top moist too a lot longer...

Just some ideas...

Mike

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 12:41PM
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saoodhashim

Thanks Mike

What cloth are you referring to? Any type? What should I do? Actually this was something new for me. Never heard about it. How should I proceed with this?

Is the black bug screen that you refer to like a netted cloth cut in the shape of the pot and placed on top of the soil? The terminologies that you all refer to on this forum are sort of not very common over here.

Saood

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 3:04AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

It is not over watering that is the problem, its UNDER DRAINING. When you water the container and the water runs out the drain holes, it has saturated the mix and the running out of the excess water creates a vacuum on the top of the mix which draws AIR into the mix. Most plants can not take up water or nutrients if the mix contains no air. Al

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 10:06AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

Just let your plants start to wilt before watering.

Also, to let your plants wilt is better than over watering them. Otherwise, lifting the container and just knowing when your plants need water/fertilizer is key to top production.

This post was edited by TheMasterGardener1 on Wed, Oct 9, 13 at 11:25

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 11:04AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

"Just let your plants start to wilt before watering." This is horrible advice that indicates to me the person giving it had no choice but to do this so peaty potting soil didn't rot the roots of their potted plants.

"It is not over watering that is the problem, its UNDER DRAINING." Agreed. This is all well explained here.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 2:57PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

Purple,

If you are in Peat Pudding, you ARE better off erring on the side of wilt than overwater....especially in the beginning. When you see a little wilt, you know to water. It's a easy indicator to help you get into a watering regimen. Root rot could be masked by all sorts of visual symptoms, and by the time you deduce it's soggy feet, it could be too late.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 4:37PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi Oxboy, excellently said, but sad when it's someone's reality, and difficult for plants if necessary. This is why I would encourage folks to start out well, with a mix that does not have the potential to kill plants by virtue of its' composition/texture, and not have to worry about things like that, or need to err on purpose on any side at all. Wilt in a plant is probably the equivalent of fainting for a person, it's extreme. When you think about it, it's silly for potted plants to be being killed by the one thing they need for us to do for them - water them.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 5:02PM
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meyermike_1micha(5)

I agree with Purple..I can't even tell you how many plants I have killed with wilt...Many forget plants take up all their nutrients through the fine haired feeder roots and that is does not take much to kill them off..
Then you are talking root rot once your roots have died off...
The wilt water wilt water sydrone will most definately kill them quickly..I can name you a few plants that can not even wilt once or they will shed their leaves and possibly branches..

Most tropical plants including Citrus and Gardenia....

The is good to use a wooden skewer or your finger if the pot is small and get a feel for what your plants need for watering at the right time.. Also lifting teh pot can tell you alot once watered and then dried out before wilt.

You soil if using the right kind should allow you to water as often as you like without fear of overwatering and that is where the mixes I use come in...

I never have to let any of my plants wilt to understand when to water now.

Mike

This post was edited by meyermike_1micha on Wed, Oct 9, 13 at 17:59

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 5:54PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi Mike, yes! It's not about what you put in a pot, (within reasonable bounds,) but the texture of it. The published mix recipes are a boon for those who don't want to experiment or guess. I would recommend using one initially, to see what it's all about. Then if alterations are desired for some reason, they could be made intelligently. It would be difficult for anyone to replicate or alter something they've never seen (except in pics) or felt with their hands, used in a pot.

If nothing else, please look at the pics. There are no fine hair-like peat particles, no bits of sand, no 'dirt' or small particles of any type.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 6:09PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

I'm not saying LET them wilt. I live in the desert and know how quickly wilt can take a plant past the point of no return.

I mean, would you rather die of thirst or drowning? IMHO, they both suck.

My point is root rot can be a ninja killer especially in warmer climates. The plant doesn't look too good, you keep watering and watering and next thing you know -- yellow, limp dead plant almost as fast as death from lack of water. Many many more plants in my climate are killed by overwatering than underwatering.

And I've seen gardenias wilt a half dozen times and recover fine once the proper watering cycle is established.

Ox

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 6:40PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I remember taplas (al) quote of a bonsai master on the question of the wilting point " one day before plants wilting you should water" Sound logic there. Al

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 9:17AM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

I agree with everything Oxboy555 said.They have a clear understanding of plants I can see.

Edit:

Posted by purpleinopp 8b AL (My Page) on Wed, Oct 9, 13 at 14:57
"Just let your plants start to wilt before watering." This is horrible advice that indicates to me the person giving it had no choice but to do this so peaty potting soil didn't rot the roots of their potted plants.

Well, it is not bad advice because it is how you water these "peaty"potting soils,you know,the most used grow media for potted plants and container culture ever.

This post was edited by TheMasterGardener1 on Thu, Oct 10, 13 at 11:30

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 10:29AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

We agree, special measures must be taken to not kill plants growing in this stuff by simply watering them. Do you really enjoy the rigamarole of monitoring for "almost wilting," wood skewers, moisture meters, and my fav - sticking a finger in. Wouldn't you enjoy your plants more if you could just water them when you think you should, or just feel like, or when your schedule permits? If you're happy, by all means, please continue!

It seems like you're trying to argue. But I did come on a little hot with the 'horrible,' I'm sorry. And well aware some people's schedules require them to be unable to tend to plants for longer periods than a few days. In a situation like that, peat could be a friend. It's not as black and white as this discussion, especially me, may be making it out to be.

BTW, where did this guy go?

" Posted by TheMasterGardener1 5B (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 16, 12 at 19:10

Yea I tried mixes with a little composted cow manure and pine bark. It was a fast draining mix and was wondering if you used the same thing. I do make leaf mold and want to use it as part of a potting mix. For large containers nothing is better then bark. For fast growing annuals I have used nothing but peat moss and composted manure and was not going to think it would work, but it gave me a large harvest of jalapeno. It is fun trying different mixes, and you save a lot of money. I do buy potting mix. I like the new hyponex in the green bag that come in 1 and 2 cuft. Only 8 something for a 2 cuft bag and it some of the best bagged potting mixes I have used."

I'm sure you don't want an enemy any more than I do, friend.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 12:01PM
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TheMasterGardener1(5B)

"And well aware some people's schedules require them to be unable to tend to plants for longer periods than a few days. In a situation like that, peat could be a friend."

Yes. That is what it comes down to. Grower convenience vs plant health. A media that may need more attention as far as watering and fertilizing,holding more air, will grow the plant faster and better. A media that holds more water and nutrients like peat potting mix may not have to be watered or fertilized as much but will NOT grow the plant as fast.

This is where BOTH media have different advantages and disadvantages.

I have tried all kinds of mixes as you can see and like to use a more course media in larger containers. As far as interior plants in low heat and low light a light mix that holds AIR is important. In outdoor areas a soil that hold water and is a little heavier is best, which comes down to grower convenience.Otherwise you would be watering many times a day in hot climates or having to have a self watering system.

So like I said, I have tried many different medias. When it comes to growing annuals like peppers/toms ect in the summer outside,I found there is no huge notable difference in the end harvest from the plants that had a high draining mix and those that were in potting soil. The harvest was maybe a few more toms than the soil grown ones. Over a large greenhouse this would really be drastic, but for a small garden like mine, not so much.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 1:39PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Getting back to the original question, the concern about overwatering... I may have misunderstood, but thought Saood wanted to improve the situation, not just deal with it, or be satisfied with less than optimal results. It's pretty hot in S AL, matching what Saood describes where he is, " 95 and sometimes touching 100-102." It's not easy to keep a tomato plant alive in those temps in the ground. Mid-day shade, as mentioned, is necessary, and mid-summer isn't part of tomato-growing season here, though some can survive sometimes. A pot has even warmer soil, so would make things more difficult, and deadly in conjunction a very water-retentive soil. If possible, putting the pot in a hole in the ground might keep the roots cool enough to survive, or painting the pot white.

These aren't tomatoes, but there's a few potted plants here.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 5:26PM
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