|Gardening Advice: A Guide To Watering Thirsty Plants|
A collection of watering advice for thirsty plants with other gardening tipsThe most time-consuming aspect of growing in containers is watering. In summer you may need to water each pot twice a day, but follow this simple advice and you can make light work of the job.
Pots and other containers hold a comparatively small amount of compost, which dries out fast, particularly when plants are growing and taking up a lot of water.
The compost in containers is also usually warmer than soil at ground level, which encourages drying out in hot weather. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to make watering easier and less time-consuming.
The water-laden granules, or gel, gradually give off moisture into the surrounding compost as it dries out. And each time you water the container, the gel absorbs more water than the compost, thus retaining moisture in the pot for longer.
Many packet instructions advise you to rehydrate the crystals first, then mix the sticky wet gel into the compost. But this is a messy job and it can be difficult to be sure that the 'swelly gelly' is evenly distributed.
It is easier to mix dry granules into the compost and then add the water, but remember that the mixture will swell once it is watered, so you can easily over-fill the container. Err on the side of caution, then top up the pot with more compost if necessary.
The compost is kept moist by drawing water up into the pot when it is needed through a matting pad and wick.
More sophisticated containers also have a tube for refilling the reservoir and overflow holes to allow excess water to drain away.
Self-watering containers can reduce the need to water pots daily, but are still only as good as the person looking after them.
It is easy for plants to become over-wet in rainy weather or, conversely, be forgotten and allowed to dry out. However, they can be very useful if you know you don't have time for watering every day.
(3) In the most efficient systems, water from the mains runs through narrow pipes to adjustable drippers feeding pots that require regular watering.
The system can be operated by turning on a tap for the required length of time or, even better, by means of an automatic timer.
The chief drawback is that whereas in a garden you can hide tubing under the soil, it is less easy to disguise it as it runs between pots.
Be aware that with a timer system your pots will be watered whether or not it has rained, so there is a risk of over-watering.
The most expensive systems can be programmed to set length of watering time, number of times a day required, and even the days of the week on which you want watering to take place.
This means that if your plants are on a balcony you can water them at a time when any drips will not disturb people beneath. Variable systems are also useful early and late in the season and during wet weather, when your containers will not need as much water.
In-line feeders can also be hooked up to add a weak dose of fertilizer to the water each time it comes on, making both feeding and watering worry free.
Give plants a morning drink of water to stop them drying out in the heat of the midday sun