How to Water Container Gardens – Everything You Want to Know About Watering and Container Gardening Drainage

Knowing how to water container gardens is one of the first basics to master. Many people who say “I just don’t have a green thumb” most likely don’t understand the how and why of watering plants.

They most likely over water until the plants are so waterlogged the air is forced out of the soil and the plant roots are starving for lack of air. At this point, the plant is literally drowning. The second scenario is they totally ignore the plant until they just expire from lack of water.

People are not born with or without “green thumbs”. Good gardeners are made not born, and nothing replaces experience when it comes to how to water container gardens.

There are many variables to consider when you are first learning how to water container gardens. Listed below are some basic items that will have an affect on how you water your plants:

  • Container Type
    Containers made of terra cotta clay and pottery are porous and as such are considered “breathable”. Plants potted in these types of containers will need watering more often than plants that are in glass, metal, or plastic non-porous containers.
  • Soil
    If your plants are potted with thick, heavy garden soil, they will need watering less frequently than plants potted in commercial “soil-less” mixes.
  • Light
    Obviously plants that are situated in the sun will dry out faster than a container situated in the shade.
  • Container Size
    The size of the container will dictate how often the plant needs to be watered.
  • Temperature
    On hot, sunny days you may find you have to water your containers several times a day. Check your containers a minumum of once a day.

When you water container gardens, the water should always be tepid and at room temperature. Cold water will shock the plant roots and slow the growth of your plants. Never use a direct stream of water from a hose. A powerful stream could wash potting soil right out of your pot. Use a “water-breaker” or sprinkler nozzle or a watering can to gently water your container plants.

Often you may have to give dry plants a dose of water several times in order to give the soil time to absorb the water. Water a little, give it a minute or 2 and add another dose of water. If you water a plant too quickly, the water will just run out from the bottom of the pot and the soil will not have absorbed the water adequately.

Never leave water standing in a tray or saucer under the pot. Water caught at the bottom of the pot breeds fungus and root rot. When you water your plants, come back in 15-20 minutes if there is a saucer for protection under your plant and empty out the water.

How to Decide If Your Container Plants Need Water

If you’re thinking you can water container gardens on a schedule, such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday, wrong!!! Plants need to be catered to if you are going to have a successful container garden. They need to be watered on their schedule, not yours.

The Finger Test

If you are a new gardener and are wondering when and how to water container gardens, this is the best way to tell if plants need water. Insert your finger into the soil down to the first knuckle (second knuckle if the container is large). If you feel any moisture, the plant most likely does not need water. Pull your finger out. If there is soil particles clinging to your finger, the plant is fine and doesn’t need watering. Remember, the roots are what needs water and they are at the bottom of the pot.

Once you have your container garden underway, you will find through experience that you can tell if a plant needs water just by looking at the soil and feeling the top of the pot.

What Type of Water Should I Use?

Everyone will agree, the best type of water to use for watering your container gardens is rain water. Many people use decorative containers to collect rain water for their plants. If this is not an option for you, a Brita filter will provide good water for this use.

You’re probable asking, “Why can’t I use tap water?”. You can use tap water if the plants you are growing will only last through one season. If you are growing plants such as trees and shrubs, or herbs you plan to have for a long period of time, tap water is not the best for them. Plants are very sensitive to water quality so if your tap water is chemically treated, chances are, over time, your plants will be hurt by a slow toxic effect.

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