Container gardening: how to water plants the right way

Watering your plants the wrong way can kill them so learn tips for watering your container garden the right way.

Watering your plants can be trickier than you might think. There are quite a few factors that need to be taken into consideration before you can determine how often to water a plant, how much water to give it at once, etc. Watering is particularly important in container gardening. Plants whose roots are buried in the earth are able to grab moisture and nutrients that naturally occur, and their roots are not limited to gathering moisture and nutrients from a closely confined space.

Knowing when to water

Check everyday- You won't know for sure if your plant needs water or not until you go outside and check the soil for yourself. This should be done on a daily basis; going several days without checking is insufficient because you won't be able to determine at what point the soil completely dried up. Don't even skip doing a soil moisture check on rainy days. Well established plants usually have dense greenery and multiple flowers hovering above ground that keeps the rain water from making down and soaking into the soil. Sometimes, the rain doesn't make it much farther than just wetting the very surface of the top layer of soil. So check everyday, no matter what the weather conditions are for that day.

Time of day- Water your plants in the evening or at night, after the sun has gone down. If you water in mid-afternoon, much of the water evaporates before the roots have an opportunity to soak it up. Another downside to watering in the afternoon is that droplets of water left on the leaves of the plant can act as a sunlight attractor, and lead to a scorching of the leaves that could have been prevented. If you prefer to water in the morning, before the sun comes up, you may do that too, but be sure you do it extremely early; don't wait until eleven o'clock in the morning to do your watering because, by then, it is too late.

Frequency- It is better to water less often yet to give the plants a more thorough soak than to water frequently but superficially. If you don't provide enough water so that it soaks down to the roots, the plant will hardly benefit from such a light watering. In the worst heat of the year, however, your plant may need more frequent but still thorough soakings.

Your plants' needs- Each different plant in your garden will need watering on a different schedule. Plants with very large, soft, leaves need watering much more frequently than do some other types of plants. If your plant has needle-like leaves, such as those on a rosemary plant or a pine tree, your plant is likely to need less frequent watering. Succulent plants such as cacti or agaves only need to be watered when the soil is completely dry, all the way down to the roots. It is a good idea to educate yourself on the needs of each type of plant you have through a gardening book or magazine or reading up online to help you determine how often you think your plant needs water and how sensitive it is to water logging, drought, etc.

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