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Watering help

Posted by keriann_lakegeneva 5B (My Page) on
Fri, Feb 26, 10 at 20:39

I need help, I do not think I am watering enough.

I am so scared of dampening off but I think I am underwatering.

I bottom water and I do it about 3 times a week.

I water when the soil 3/4 down is dry, dry as out of the bag. I add an inch of water and let them drink until the soil on the top is moist and then dump the rest of the water out (can I save the water and reuse it?). I am using cells 2.5" deep and 3x3" pots in 1020 trays. My seedlings are not droopy or sad but I question if they would be happier with more water. The soil pulls away from the sides as well before I water. I have 6 T12 bulbs per flat and great air circulation.

What are your cues to water?

How do you measure water needs?

These are seedlings, germinated and have 2-6 true leaves.

Thank you in advance.

Keriann~


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Watering help

I'm running into the same problem. I just noticed yesterday that my onion seedlings felt dry and a little less spongy than before. So I bottom watered them for about a half an hour, until the top of the soil glistened and they were heavier.

That was the first time I had watered them since they were planted, and it had been about a week. I've got tiny amounts of the white mold stuff growing, so it's a battle between too wet and too dry.

Kim


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RE: Watering help

Actually it sounds to me like you are doing it about right. ;) Can't be sure without seeing them of course but you say there is no signs of wilting, of droopy leaves? Then they are fine.

The problem Keriann is your underlying assumption that "they would be happier with more water". Why? It's not just you. We all do it.

Why do we assume that plants can't thrive without lots of water? They have tiny little veins and arteries that can only circulate a few cc's of liquid at a time. So what is there in water that feeds them? Increases their size? Improves their ability to photosynthesize light? Nothing. It is simply their mode of circulating nutrients. That's all. So if you feel they are growing too slowly (which is usually a good thing) maybe it is lack of nutrients or oxygen rather than water.

When the soil is wet and all the spaces between soil particles are filled with water where is the air, the oxygen, that the roots need? It's forced out. But the air around the rootlets makes them just as "happy", if not more so, than water does. Picture all those tiny roots having to hold their breath under water waiting for the air to return so they can breathe. ;)

An over-simplication of the process I know but the point is that water is not the be-all and end-all for plants that far too many of think it is.

What are your cues to water?

For me it's leaf turgidity. Do they appear soft, flaccid, droopy, more floppy than normal. If so the plant needs water. If not, it doesn't.

How do you measure water needs?

That's more complex because it depends on size of container, type of plant (some need more or less than others), air temps, soil mixture used (porosity), humidity, how often you can monitor/check the plants, etc. I prefer to stick my finger in when possible and feel the soil. Not always possible in very small containers. You can use a Q-tip stuck in and if it comes out damp they don't need water.

But a very general safe guideline especially if you can't be there to check them often is bottom water soak just until the surface soil of the container just barely begins to show moisture then dump the rest.

Try an experiment - continue your current approach with most but pick 4-5 to be watered more and mark them. Monitor the comparative progress of both for 1 week and see what happens. That way you will know for sure. :)

Dave


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RE: Watering help

My soil is packed very lightly.

I took out a cell and it looks like a beautiful french pastry, with lots of air spaces (flakes).

In lame terms, if i took my 2.5" x 2.5" cell and smushed it down it would be about 1/3 of the volume. So, I think I am covering O2 needs.

I am trying to steer clear of stressing my seedlings out, that is my main concern.... enough water to keep them out of stress (ie droopy leaves) and not enough to create a nightmare of algae and disease. I check on them 3 times a day (I know.. I am a dork) :). I will try an experiment on my verbena, thanks for the tip.

Also, I have been told and read that red stems = too cold but seedlings prefer less than 70 degrees. Well most of my seedlings came up with red stems, in a 68 degree environment. I believe it is the temp change from germinating heat mats to no bottom heat. I have kept the seedlings at at constant 60-69 degree air temp and the stems lost their red within 10 days. So if you have 'baby' seedlings with red stems and you used bottom heat, I would wait it out before changing air temps.

Thanks Guys!

Keriann~


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Watering help update

Ohh... Q-tip

It came out bone dry. Soil did not even stick to it. It is like dust. But the leaves are not droopy or 'soft', they are still stiff and and seem 'full'.

They do look great.....my petunias, verbena, begonias, datura, african daiseys and impatients are growing like weeds.. I must be doing something right! : )

I guess this isn't going to be an easy answer... I just hate to wait until they droop to add water.

I will carry in with the experiment and go from there.

Keriann~


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RE: Watering help

>> I guess this isn't going to be an easy answer... I just hate to wait until they droop to add water. <<

Me thinks you are watering far more than needed unless your seedlings are someplace weird where they are getting a lot more dry heat than one would experience at this time of the year.

I transplant seedlings into 3" nursery containers that are 3.5" deep. My mix is Fertilome and I make sure it is compressed, but I bottom water no more than once a week, at least until the plants get to be six-eight inches tall. Like you, my mix gets saturated to the point that even the top is wet - not just moist, but wet.

Droopy plants will not suffer - I've missed some watering times and have seen plants laying on the sides of the container. After watering them, the next day they are as perky as can be. Not once have plants died.

YMMV.

Mike

I do not endorse any link added to this message and find it totally wrong that this forum adds them, not to mention how annoying the pop-ups are


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RE: Watering help

Mike-

Your soil is more dense then mine so yes, you would need to water less than I.

I do think that plants laying over a container from no water is stressful though, I will agree to disagree.

Keriann~


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RE: Watering help

On the whole I think most of us water too often, not too much, just too often. In my own case I LOOK AT my plants too often. Being impatient by nature I think I should be "doing something" to speed up my plants growth. I really think most of my plants would be better off if I took a week off every now and then! Al


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RE: Watering help

Al- I totally agree.. you are right on!

I need a hobby for my hobby : ) ha ha ha

Keriann~


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RE: Watering help

There have been times I've been looking my seedlings and thinking "Grow, dang it!" Just today I planted a dozen more cells out of sheer antsyness. Not a good habit to develop. haha.

Kim


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RE: Watering help

All of my plants are still in seed starting mix in the small trays (i.e the 3x3 trays where you can fit 72 into a flat). I am actually having the opposite problem I think... my plants seem to be drying out very fast. If I went more than a day w/o water I would (and have) likely lose some of the smaller seedlings. The older, larger plants are obviously more tolerable but I lost about 8 petunias the other day that were very small.. simply dried out and died. I've got the plants in the basement with a space heater going to keep it around 70 degrees and then a fan on low constantly - about 8 feet away.. just enough to see the seedlings move slightly in the breeze. I'm thinking that it's a combination of the fan and the small containers and that's why I'm having to water so often?


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RE: Watering help

Why are you keeping it at 70 degrees? JMHO, I don't think you need to run the fan 24/7 unless you're having problems with damping off/too much moisture. If your only goal is to help encourage stronger plants with the breeze, that can be done by running the fan for an hour or so every couple of days. And it also isn't really necessary until the seedlings get a little bigger. Think about it; the wind doesn't blow constantly outside. Just my two cents, because I agree that they shouldn't be drying out that fast, especially in plastic cell packs.


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