How do I water container plants?

As a complete novice, as I was back in 2009 when I began gardening, I suppose the one thing I did not think of when creating a garden with so many containers, is the impact the watering would have. If we have many more summers like 2018 I’ll probably have to rethink my garden design. In my 10 years of gardening, last year was probably the hardest in which to keep my garden looking its best for our many visitors.

How often?

The real problem is how often you need to water a container as it can vary, depending on the time of the year, the location of the container, how long it has been planted, the type of container etc. There really are no hard and fast rules on the subject.  

Watering devices

There are all kinds of water meter devices on the market but they are really no substitute for observing the plant and using your finger to see how moist or dry the soil really is. That said, it is difficult with my style of planting to be able to get your finger to the soil, without damaging the flowers!

If you are not sure whether you plants need watering you can use a moisture meter
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

My trusty assistant therefore is this gadget which allows me to probe the soil without damaging the blooms and it tells me how moist the compost is. It is amazing how many visitors don’t know such things exist!

When do I water?

Watering should be done when the plants need water and preferably before they start to show signs of stress eg wilting severely. The thing we all have to remember is to water our plants based on their needs and not some general rule of thumb. A good guide to know if you have watered enough each time is to see water starting to drip out of the drainage holes at the base. Watering can be done using a hand held hose or watering can but if you have a lot of containers located in the same general area, a drip irrigation system can be set up to make watering a little more convenient and less time consuming. I had one of the in my previous garden in London and took it all up to bring with me and start the irrigation system I now have here at Driftwood. My only problem is, the more outlets I add to it, the less effective it has become, so I do rely on doing it by hand as it can be quite therapeutic and it does mean you are actually looking at every plant to see how it is doing.

Geoff Stonebanks waters every pot in his Driftwood By Sea garden with a watering can
Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Special attention

Sometimes free-standing pots can really dry out and will benefit from immersing the container in a bucket or sink filled with water – leave it there allowing water to be absorbed through the holes in the bottom of the container. When you see moisture on the surface of the compost, you know the soil is now moist.

To help retain moisture in the soil and to lengthen the interval between watering slightly, you can incorporate one of the many water holding gels available into the compost. They now become reservoirs for water that a plant can use when the soil itself becomes dry. These products do not eliminate the need for timely watering. They just provide a slight cushion. I have to confess it is not an avenue I have followed so far. Readers might recall from an earlier blog, a tip my Aunt gave me many years ago was to create an inner saucer from tin foil on the inside of terracotta pots to help water retention. It really does help.

I always use a watering can to support my plant feeding regime and do tend to use one to water containers too. Happy watering.



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