Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Watering Tricks for Container Plants

Container gardening is my preferred method of gardening these days since my paradise has turned into a jungle that will take some time to get under control. In the meantime, I've been turning my carport into a container jungle just by taking pieces of plants and putting them in containers.

Keeping container plants healthy and watered can be a challenge, especially if you don't have much time on your hands.

One of the things I do to keep my plants healthy naturally is to dilute left over coffee and water my plants with it . . . I've sprinkled used coffee grounds in the containers. My plants love it! They also love water that vegetables have boiled in . . . I never use salt in the water. With the carport being right outside my kitchen, these practices have been very convenient for me.

A homemade self-watering device will care for your plants while you're on vacation. A thick piece of cotton cord placed in the drainage hole of a container will act as a wick and draw water from a reservoir such as a 1-gallon plastic milk jug. When you don't need the device, coil the cotton cord inside the saucer so it's out of sight.

Before you plant the container, cut a piece of cord 2 1/2' to 3 1/2' long. Place one end through the drainage hole of the container, then fill the pot with a few inches of soil. The cord should be visible on the surface of the soil before you set the plant in place. Coil the cord around the top of the soil. Set the plant in place, and fill the pot with the remaining soil. When you're about to leave town, place the long end of the cord emerging from the drainage hole into a gallon jug filled with water. The cord will act as a wick to draw water from the jug.

Another method--often used with miniature African violets--is to use a shorter piece of cord and set the plant on top of a reservoir. Both plant and reservoir can be placed in a larger decorative container so that the wick and reservoir are hidden. Check the reservoir at least once a month to see whether you need to add water. If you like, add fertilizer to the reservoir.

Strawberry jars are very difficult to water. To make the job easier, place a wire cylinder filled with gravel inside the pot. Fill the container with soil and plant as usual. When you water, place the hose directly into the cylinder. It will deliver water all the way to the bottom of the jar. Another method is to drill holes in a piece of PVC pipe and place it in the center of the pot before planting.

If you enjoy hovering over your plants, use clay pots, which dry out quickly. With terra-cotta pots, you won't have to worry about overwatering. If you prefer self-sufficient plants, choose plastic pots, which help the soil retain moisture longer so plants don't need watering as frequently. Gardeners who forget about their plants should consider self-watering pots with a reservoir of water that's available to the plants as needed.

Beginning gardeners often make the mistake of thinking that all plants require the same amount of moisture. In fact, some require a lot of moisture, whereas others prefer soil that's on the dry side. To keep each plant happy, you'll need to know its water requirements. A good plant encyclopedia or manual can help.

To determine whether a plant needs water, stick your finger in the soil. If it's dry down to the first knuckle on your index finger, add water. If the soil is damp, don't water. Or purchase a moisture meter at a garden center or nursery. After being placed in the soil, the meter's probe will indicate whether the plant should be watered.

There is an awesome product on the market that is a glass ball on a spikey stem that you fill with water and stick in the container to keep your plants watered. I'll try to find the link to where you can buy these or post a photo, they are very decorative and functional.

Every time I see the commercial on television, my minds starts going on some home made designed items using the same concept. Just haven't had the time to play around with it, but will post photos when I get around to making some.

You are welcome to post your watering tricks for container plants in the comments section.

Happy gardening :)

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