Alan Titchmarsh advises gardeners on watering their plants
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Watering, as you will know whether you’re a green-fingered gardener or novice in the back yard, is an integral part of flowers and plants reaching their full potential. But what you may not know is that incorrect watering techniques and quantities can put plants at heightened risk of disease and even kill them on some occasions. Whether you want to cultivate beautiful outdoor perennials or trendy houseplants, follow these five golden rules of watering for optimum growth and a thriving home and garden.
Properly check moisture levels
Garden and indoor plants can suffer when the soil dries out, but it’s not always easy to tell when that is.
Sometimes the surface appears dry while the interior, closer to the root, has ample water.
The contrary can also occur, whereby the top appears moist enough but the roots aren’t able to extract the amount of water needed to survive.
This is why it’s essential to properly check the moisture levels of your potted plants, whether that’s indoors or outdoors.
Stick your finger into the soil up to the depth of your knuckle and have a feel round, through which you should be able to gauge whether or not your plant needs a hydration boost.
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Don’t rely on rain
Most garden plants, flowers and shrubs do best when they receive at least one inch of water a week, although more may be needed in drier climates.
Rain isn’t always enough at supplying enough water for plants to thrive, so don’t count on it to keep them healthy.
Instead, insert a simple rain gauge in the garden and use it to monitor the amount of weekly rainfall your plants get.
If the garden gets less than one inch, then top up by watering.
Be wary of the potting mix you’re using
Most houseplants need a well-drained potting mix that doesn’t stay soggy for hours or days after watering.
When shopping for indoor houseplant potting mixes, look out for products that contain either coconut coir, vermiculite or perlite.
All three ingredients are used in potting mixes to help aerate the soil and encourage draining.
For the best draining, use a potting mix that does not contain more than one part peat moss.
Good drainage is essential for healthy plants, as one of the most common reasons they die is from sitting in soggy soil too long without owners noticing.
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Water less in the winter and more in the spring
During the winter the days are shorter, meaning houseplants inevitably receive less ambient light through windows and doors.
As a result, photosynthesis (the process during which a plant turns light into food) slows down and the plant enters a resting phase during which less water is needed.
As spring approaches, however, longer days signal the plant to start growing and at this time, it needs more water.
Adjust your habits for watering plants accordingly in an effort not to cause distress or thirst to them.
Do not overwater
Overwatering is likely the number one cause of why houseplants fail and die.
Those new to cultivating plants at home tend to water them too often, thinking that’s just what the botanist ordered.
Overwatering, however, increases the risk of root rot and fungal diseases drastically, which will quickly cause the plants to perish.
If you catch sight of droopy stems, wilting leaves, a whitish coat (fungus) or fungal flats in the home – pests that thrive on consistently wet soil – you’re watering the plants too much.
On the flip side of the coin, when the bottom leaves on your houseplant dry out and drop and edges of the leaves elsewhere on the plant crisp up and go brown, it’s probably not getting enough water.
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