The first couple of books I looked at that mentioned watering had some pretty ambigious advice on when to water – mainly saying that you should water when it looked like you needed to. They also said that it wasn’t an exact science and you couldn’t rely on watering to a schedule. Some help that was or so I thought.
At first this seemed wrong. Surely boxes that were in similar positions could be watered on a regular schedule? Well, very quickly that idea disappeared. Local conditions clearly played their part. The amount of sun, wind and rain affected things. The type of plant affected things. The size of the box, the quantity of plants and the boxes ability to drain well affected things.
The pictures in the books and online weren’t that much of a help either. Plants that were over-watered seemed to display the same characteristics as those that were under-watered!
Having been unsatisfied with the results of sticking a finger into the soil to check (having no frame of reference to judge how damp the soil was) and realising that watering on a schedule, come what may, was also not working I resolved to buy a moisture probe and rely on hard evidence to make my decisions. How naive was I?!
Over the next couple of weeks I used the probe religiously to check how damp each box was and made my watering decisions solely on this basis. Rubbish idea! There was nothing wrong with the probe but the reading and the plant response to my watering scheme were all out of kilter and some of the plants clearly suffered from under-watering. At this point I dispensed with the probe and started using my intuition again, along with sticking a finger into the soil.
I wouldn’t say the probe didn’t work or didn’t give a sound reading. I think it’s simply a matter of my inexperience that I’m not able to read the signs and take action at the right time. Some of the plants I used were quite forgiving while others weren’t and that’s something I can take into consideration when choosing the next set of bedding plants.
I was also surprised by how some boxes don’t drain as well as others. One box (Joel) seems to be damp all of the time and never dries out so I might need to completely re-start it and drill more drainage holes or put more drainage material (crocks) at the bottom. Then again the Pansies and Viola have really worked in that environment.
Who knew a little water could be so confusing!