16: Episode 16 – Plant watering tips

It’s important to understand how to give our plants the best chance for survival. Understanding how the way we water effects them can be really important.

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Plant Watering Tips

We’re going to be talking about some plant watering tips. Plant watering is something that sounds simple and ultimately it is once you understand what’s going on. Many people make very simple mistakes that are so easy to cure and it’s just a lack of understanding of what’s happening that leads to those mistakes. So we’re going to go through a few tips today.

How To Water Your Plants The Right Way

Seed Germination

The first thing I want to say about plant watering is you need to understand what’s going on with your actual plants and the stage your plants are at. When a plant is just a seed, it’s nothing but a load of stored information. It’s the genetic code of that plant waiting for the right environment. The right environment is usually moisture. As soon as you place that seed in your compost and introduce some water to it, it starts growing. At this point, it is literally just a package of information. It doesn’t have all the root system, stems, and all the ways of storing energy and water that it will have as a mature plant. As it grows bigger, it requires a different type of care. So as a plant grows, it’s going to send out some tiny little roots and a couple of little leaves. It’s pretty obvious what these things do. The roots are to take in the water and nutrients that it needs and the leaves are to photosynthesize.

Keep The Soil Moist

Once you’ve got your plant germinated, it’s really important not to let it dry out. It’s a tiny little thing and it doesn’t have much water in it. Those little leaves have got hardly any water in and the second that you ask the plant to look after itself with regards to fluids, it’s going to fail. So you need to keep that soil moist. Once it dries out, that is when your plant starts to germinate.

The first tip is to keep the soil moist, not wet, when your seed is just starting out. You don’t want to rot your seed. By keeping the soil wet as opposed to moist, what can happen is that your seed can actually start getting mouldy and rotting. So if you look at the soil, pick it up and squeeze it, could you imagine ringing it out? If you can, then it’s probably too wet. But if you touch it with your finger and it feels a little dry like dust, then it’s definitely too dry. So it’s a bit of a balancing act when you first start it out and you might want to water your plants a little bit less and more often particularly if you’re keeping them in a greenhouse or somewhere like that.

How Plants Get Nutrients

The next thing to think about is that plants don’t eat the nutrients in the soil. They drink it. They can only access the nutrients in the soil if there is some moisture. This is more critical with your seeds and seedlings. If you go out into your lawn and you poke your finger down into the soil, it doesn’t matter if it hasn’t rained for three days, the soil is still damp and that’s because of the bulk of it. It’s very different from a little seedling in a pot. So if the soil is not moist, then your plant literally cannot drink and it cannot take what it needs from the soil.

Mulching Your Soil

One way to help your vegetable bed to keep moist once you’ve planted your seedlings is to mulch it. Mulch is especially important for young plants for all those reasons we’ve just talked about. It keeps your soil moist if you’ve got a couple of inches of mulch on top of the surface of your soil. This is really important regardless of your soil type particularly if you’ve got soil that is going to dry out very quickly. If you keep that mulch there, then everything underneath it is going to be nice and moist and a perfect environment for your plants to grow.

Best Time To Water Your Plants

Some people make a mistake and that is when signs of overwatering look like under-watering. Plants can wilt through over-watering just like they can through under-watering. So don’t necessarily assume that if your plants are wilting and look thirsty, that’s necessarily a sign that you’re under-watering. Just have a look at the soil and then make your decision.

The next tip is to water in the morning. When your seedlings are young or in very hot weather, you might find you need to water more than once a day. But if you are watering just once a day, try and do it in the morning if you can. The reason for this is because the plants have got the water when they need it most. They’re doing most of their work during the day when they’re photosynthesizing. It’s when they’re doing most of their growing. So if you can water in the morning, then your plants have got what they need and when they need it. By watering them, you’re not only giving the plants the water they need but also allowing access to the nutrients in the compost of the soil because they can’t eat, they only drink.

Consistent Watering

When it comes to vegetables in particular consistency is really important. So you don’t want to have a situation where you are absolutely deluging your plants with water one day and then not watering for three days. Lots of plants will really struggle with this like cucumbers, tomatoes and hungry plants of that sort. They need that consistent watering. They will just fail to set through otherwise. All the fruit they set will be very poor. If you suddenly increase or decrease the amount of water for carrots, they can split the roots. So it is quite important to be consistent where you can. You can do this with any method you please but do try and consistently water your plants. We use a little drip-feed in our polytunnel. That’s the method we choose so that they’re constantly getting that low-level watering.

How Do Plant’s Root System Work

The next thing is to understand how your plant’s roots work. If you’re giving your plants a very light sprinkling of water a couple of times a day, that water is going to sit near the surface and that’s where your plant’s roots are going to be encouraged to grow. If you think long term if all your plant’s roots are sat up near the surface, they’re not going to have access to that constant moisture that’s available deeper down in the soil. Particularly with tomato plants, once they’re planted in the ground, make sure that you water them deeply and that means give them a really good soak so that the water gets down deep into the ground if the weather is dry. This will encourage your roots to go down to that same depth and that same depth is where the water is going to keep that soil moist for longer.

This is going to do two things: It’s going to allow them to be more healthy and able to look after themselves when there isn’t as much water available on the surface and it’s also going to take the pressure off you to have to water them every day once they get established because their roots are going to be in the right place to look after themselves. A very shallow root layer is going to struggle because it’s only going to have access to the water when you put it there whereas the deep root layer is going to be able to look after itself in the long term.

Final Thoughts

One of the last things I wanted to mention is not to water your plants with a big spray hose all over their leaves in really hot weather because this can scorch the leaves. So when it’s the middle of the day in the middle of summer, you want to make sure that you’re getting the water to the base of the plant and not over the leaves because you can actually damage the leaves that way and even kill it in really severe cases.

Finally, the last thing is to make sure that you’ve got a method of watering your seedlings that aren’t going to damage them. So if you’ve got a drip irrigation system, which you can set up yourself by just a piece of hosepipe and punched little holes in it that you can run around the base of the plants, then that’s great. But other than that if you’re going to use a hose system with one of those trigger guns, make sure you’ve got it set to mist or the finest setting you have. Even on mist, make sure you stand a fair distance away from your young seedlings because you will just blow them over flat with the power of that water because they’re very young plants
and they’re doing everything they can to get established and we don’t want to knock them back. So I hope you find all of my plant watering tips useful.