Watering tips for beginners
When I worked for a garden center, my boss used to tell me all the time that my single most important job was watering. I used to fight that a little bit because I wanted to help customers and sell plants, but I soon realized that the two weren’t exclusive. You can still help customers while you’re watering and often customers seek out the person with the garden hose because they had the answers. But the real reason the single most important job at the garden center was watering is because you just can’t sell dead plants. On a sunny and windy day, those little pots and packs can dry out really fast and the plants will die. I say this not to intimidate you if you’re new to gardening, but to enforce how important watering is. It is a little easier to care for plants at home and here are a few ways to make it even easier.
First, try to buy only as many plants as you think you can plant in the time you have. it’s tempting to try to make one huge trip to the garden center and plant as you have time. The issue is those small pots will dry out while you’re at work and you might lose them. If you have to do it all in one trip, try to place the extra plants in a place that gets afternoon shade. Even full sun plants will appreciate not baking in the hot sun for a few days and this will help them make the most of the water they have. Check them in the afternoon when you get home and water them a few hours before sunset so they dry off.
Second, if you’re planting containers, don’t overcrowd them. The more plants in the pot, the more roots in the pot, and the more water they’ll need. Especially after a few months of growing, if the pot is too small, you might find yourself having to water twice a day. For flowers: 10-inch / 25-cm across planters should have three 4-in. store-bought pots. A 12-inch / 30-cm container could have four plants, and you can add a plant for every few inches gained as long as the pots are deep. The more soil you have in the container, the more moisture they’ll hold and the less frequently you’ll have to water.
For vegetables in containers, pay attention to the plant label for its height and spread. Tomatoes should grow in a 14 to 17-inch / 35 to 43-cm container. single Peppers need a 12 to 14-inch / 30 to 35-cm container.
Finally, it’s always tough to know when to water plants in the ground. I always recommend using mulch to help conserve water. When the plants are planted you can add a layer of fine mulch over top and water everything in well. Then check every other day to make sure the top 1-inch / 2-cm of soil is still moist. If not, it’s time to add more water. You’ll get a feel for how often you need to water after a couple of weeks of checking.
There’s no good rule that says water every day in containers or every week in the ground. It really depends on the kind of soil you have and the weather in your area. The best advice is to check them frequently and water when the soil is dry. The nice part about this advice? It encourages you to go spend time in your garden and enjoy!