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Container Gardening: Container watering question

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1234dottie
Morgantown, WV

January 6, 2012
6:02 PM

Post #8957375

All my plants indoors I am watering from bottom using a wick. I was wondering should I give my plants a good watering from the top to clean out junk. If I should how often should i do it. thanks for any input.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 6, 2012
6:57 PM

Post #8957457

Yes, Dottie - water from the top and flush soils thoroughly and regularly. Wick watering ensures that the lion's share of the dissolved solids left behind after evaporation and plant transpiration remain in the soil and continue to accumulate. This occurs very quickly when compared to plantings that are watered from the top and watered correctly. It sounds like you already understand the impact these accumulating dissolved solids (salts) can have on a plant's ability to efficiently take up and move water and the nutrients dissolved in that water, and that doing our best to minimize the concentration of these solids in the soil (solution) is very important to our plant's root health and o/a vitality.

Al

This message was edited Jan 6, 2012 10:07 PM
1234dottie
Morgantown, WV

January 7, 2012
9:52 AM

Post #8958113

Thanks al, some of the pots I am using are the self watering pots. Should I just set the pots in the sink and just run a bunch of water until it comes out of the bottom to cleanse out the salts. Also I end o wAter about every other day. How often should I thoroughly water from the top. Does once every two weeks be often enough? Asking these questions here might help someone else besides me. Thanks again.

tapla

tapla
Bay City, MI
(Zone 6a)

January 7, 2012
11:53 AM

Post #8958194

Most growers are fond of repeating the advice that you shouldn't water on a schedule, that you should only water on an 'as needed' basis; and if you make the assumption that ALL growers are using a highly water-retentive, commercially prepared soil, that advice would indeed be good and fully applicable. I happen to water very successfully 'on a schedule'. I'll explain why can and do, and why if you do repeat the advice to water only on an AS NEEDED basis, you can look a couple of notches smarter if you qualify your directive.

We first need to look at WHY the advice is given in the first place. Generally speaking, the commercially prepared soils that a very high % of hobby growers use are extremely water retentive. By this, I mean most of them support 3 or more inches of perched water at container capacity. What that means: Container capacity speaks to how much water is in the soil after you have watered to beyond total saturation and the soil has just stopped draining. THAT is the soil at 'container capacity'. If a soil supports 3" of perched water, that means that the bottom 3" of soil will remain fully saturated after watering, regardless of container size/shape/volume, until the water either evaporates or is used by the plant. Perched water kills roots, so you can see the advice to water on an 'as needed basis' is good advice ... IF you are actually USING these water retentive soils. The advice is usually repeated by rote, and under the indirect influence of assumption ... and is offered to help protect you from yourself. ;-)

What if you are using a well-aerated and free-draining soil that holds little or NO perched water? What harm is there then, in watering on a schedule? in watering before the plant actually needs additional water? None. Watering on a schedule works fine with these soils, and they offer much greater latitude in the areas of watering and fertilizing habits - a much wider margin for grower error. You can see why there is need for qualification or some knowledge of the properties of another grower's soils before we would restrict all growers to essentially the same watering habits, or before we can offer any truly meaningful advice. Still though, if you do repeat the advice to water only as needed, you'll be correct by default, but some qualification would be very helpful. If you state you shouldn't water on a schedule, the statement is too all-encompassing to be taken at face value without assumption about soil type, so it definitely needs qualifying.

That you're watering every other day makes me wonder. I have very good light and a LOT of air movement in my growing area, and I use a VERY fast (draining) soils. I water all but a very few plants in very small containers every 3 days. Since I don't know anything about your soil, I can't comment on whether a 2 day interval is appropriate or not, but you'll find enough info in what I wrote above to determine that for yourself. You want to avoid perched water - that soggy layer of soil , and keep in mind that the best growth occurs when the soil is about as damp as a wrung out sponge.

Using a 1/4 or 5/16" piece of wood dowel that has been sharpened in a pencil sharpener is a very effective tool for measuring moisture in soils. Much more effective than the inexpensive moisture meters that really only measure electrical conductivity. Insert the sharpened end deep into the pot. If it comes out wet, damp, or dark, you can withhold water for almost all plants. If it comes out clean & dry, water to beyond saturation - so the entire soil mass is saturated and at least 10-20% of the total volume of water applied exits the drain hole. If you can't water like that w/o root rot, you can increase your plant's potential for vitality and it's ability to grow to its genetic potential by adopting a soil that DOES allow you to water properly. Period. ;-)

Regularly flushing the soil of your plant, if you're not already doing it every time you water, is required for best vitality. You should probably do it about every 5th or 6th watering at a minimum, if you're watering in sips to avoid root problems. I think it's better to tie the frequency of 'flushings' to the number of times you water, rather than trying to establish a guideline based on elapsed time (like every 2 weeks ...), for more or less obvious reasons I'll explain if someone doesn't understand that the amount of salt that CAN build in the soil is more directly linked to the number of waterings and fertilizer solution applications than any lapse of time.

Al




1234dottie
Morgantown, WV

January 7, 2012
2:18 PM

Post #8958357

Lots of valuable info here for me. My soil is basically made from your dirt recipe. My watering is rather inconsistent. Usually there is no water left in the bottom and I refill it. Most of the dirt at the top feels dry. I really appreciate the idea about the dowel. Could just a pencil work for this? When I water from the top should I do that about every 4 or 5 times I water. Since I have the wick in it should I then empty the water out that comes off the wick. After a day add new water to the bottom? As you see I am such a newbie in how to take of my plants. I have gerbera plants that have done wonderful in the house. I have one plant in a bigger pot than two of them and the one in the bigger pot is much bigger than the other two. But the other two are blooming nice flowers. I bought bigger pots for the two in smaller pots because I think by this spring they will do much nicer outside in a bigger pot. This fall I made me a big batch of you recipe and I am storing it in a big garbage can so when I decide to make a new pot I have the dirt ready to go. Is that ok to do? Thanks Al

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