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Too Much of a Good Thing- Overwatering

Anne Jaeger


Too Much Of A Good Thing: Overwatering.

We’re supposed to drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day.  By about glass number six I’m gasping for air like a blowfish.  The same can happen to the potted plants out on the patio or in your flowerbeds. Too much of a good thing is still TOO much.  So how much water is enough?  That’s pretty easy to answer for outside potted plants.  They need a soft, steady stream of water every single day until you see it dripping out the drainage holes.  Talk about commitment!  As the weather gets hotter, once is not enough.  If you’ve ever witnessed the miraculous recovery of common Impatiens you know what I’m talking about.   One minute the leaves and bright flowers are wilted, shriveled and appear to be at deaths door.  The guilt meter is on high and you rush to revive it, thinking of all the money you’ve spent.  Presto!  Give ‘um a drink and they plump up in no time.   As you’d imagine this is extremely stressful on the plant not to mention your self esteem, so keep those Impatiens in the shade and when the heat gets intense they may need water two or three times a day.   One caveat,  pots and baskets can be tricksters making you believe they’ve had a drink when they really haven’t.  They spit it out when you’re not looking.  If you’ve just started watering and it’s instantly draining out the bottom and you “call it good” that’s a bad sign.   The planter may be sooooo dry the soil can’t absorb anything. When that happens I lower the pots into a plastic kiddy pool or bucket of water about two inches deep and let them drink from the bottom up for half an hour or so.   If you just can’t decide how much is enough, stick your pinky into the soil a couple of inches.  When  it comes out moist you’re done.   Those soil watering meters are a good investment too.  They stay in the pot or soil and keep your pinky clean.  Not to confuse you here, but you need to know that overwatered plants have the same lifeless look as underwatered plants.  That’s why the spot check is important.  Overwatering also means most of your fertilizer is going down the drain.  For the summer months you should use balanced fertilizer to keep the blooms coming.  That means we look for something that says 20-20-20 on the front of the package.

A garden is a little different. The plants will still show the same signs of thirst and wilting, but flower beds need to dry out a little between waterings because the roots need oxygen as much as they need the water.  Whether you’re using a soaker hose, sprinkler system or  dripline, infrequent but deep watering is best.  Mulch holds water in and conditions the soil.  Over head sprinklers are less effective but you still won’t need anymore than a half hour max.  Watering each bed anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour twice a week usually does the job depending on what kind of soil you have.  The plants will tell you if they’re not getting enough.

Now if you’ll excuse me, those six glasses of water are starting to catch up with me….