Northern Exposure

Triumphs and failures on a window ledge.

Watering Woes April 25, 2009

Filed under: Accessories,Spring,Summer,Watering — northernwindowgardener @ 11:34 am
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Wilting PansiesFor better or for worse each season has its challenges. In winter it’s simply about keeping things growing during the short cold days. But in spring it’s back to my old nemesis – watering.

I’m not good at judging how much to water the boxes and over winter that hasn’t been much of a problem. But now that the days are both longer (in terms of sunlight anyway) and warmer, my shaky watering judgement is back on the agenda.

It doesn’t help much that the signs of overwatering and underwatering are, by all the internet and book advice available, broadly similar. I suppose it shouldn’t be difficult to tell the two apart really. Simply by looking at some wilting plants (see pansies at left!) and asking the question “when did they last get watered?” a reasonable conclusion can be found.

But when the rain has been beating at the windows and the air is heavy and humid, that answer isn’t so easily found. And there’s also the problem that the soil on top of the box can often look quite dry – thereby encouraging a thorough soaking – but actually there’s still a lot of moisture in the soil at root level.

For a while last year I went for the semi-scientific method of using a moisture tester. These are a  metal rod with a meter attached. You poke it into the soil and the needle shows how dry or damp the soil is. At least that’s the theory. The problem I had was that when the needle was showing averagely wet soil, the plants were clearly in need of something – it just wasn’t clear if that was more or less water! You see my quandry now, yes?

So at some point I returned to the sheer guesswork experienced gardeners’ method of sticking a finger into the soil, about down to the second knuckle, and figuring that over time I’d learn what was wet and what wasn’t. Then by a process of learning from my mistakes (!) I’d come to some broad conclusions about what action to take. Either that or just keep soaking them and hoping for the best!

As the picture above of some very wilted pansies shows, the watering problem is now back and lessons have restarted. Fortunately it’s been dry around here and I wasn’t able to look after the boxes for a few days so it’s definately lack of water this time. Strike one down for another pass in the gardening test papers and pass me the watering can.

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3 Responses to “Watering Woes”

  1. Glo Says:

    LOL ~ it is difficult job to create the perfect conditions for growth, isn’t it? ~ just curious, do you have draining holes in the bottom of your window boxes? I add some peat moss to my soil to hopefully keep some moisture contained, but many times it is by guess or by golly! I think you’ve got the method that works best figured out 🙂

  2. Flighty Says:

    Watering is probably acknowledged to be one of the hardest thing for gardeners to get right.
    More indoor plants are killed off by over-watering than by everything else put together! Also most plants suffer badly if their roots are constantly in waterlogged, and cold, soil.
    Like many things you’ll learn by personal experience!

  3. Glo – yes I drilled holes in the plastic containers and in fact added more holes a few months ago as a couple of boxes seemed to stay damp. The problem with boxes is that you think you CAN create the perfect conditions – some hope! I’ve also propped them up on bits of polystyrene to get some airflow underneath them.

    Flighty – You’re so right. I have some houseplants too which I find hard to get the watering right. In the boxes I used water retaining crystals but I’m not convinced they help much. I may leave them out when I re-pot everything.

    Thanks for reading 🙂


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