Tuesday, 3 September 2013


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Watering plants can be a difficult thing to get right. Water too much and your plants will droop their stems, curl and drop their leaves and can eventually die. Water too little and your plants will droop their stems, curl and drop their leaves and can eventually die. Hmmm, identical symptoms for opposite problems can make watering your plants difficult.

Why do we need to water the plants at all? It is important to water your plants as plants lose moisture through their leaves during photosynthesis. In warm weather water is also lost in the soil through evaporation, newly sown or planted plants require more watering than established plants as their root systems are less developed. Plants in containers also require more watering than plants planted directly into the soil. It is essential to replenish this water supply regularly or the plants will die. This is especially important in the summer and during dry, hot spells.

This is because essential resources are transported to the rest of the plant through its network of roots. The root network divides into finer, hair like roots which are single modified plant cells. These cells collect oxygen, water and nutrients from tiny air pockets in the surrounding soil and keep the plant alive.

Normally these tiny air pockets in the soil drain quickly of water, but sometimes these air pockets don't drain away and are filled with water through flooding or overwatering and starve the roots of oxygen. Prolonged exposure to overwatering can cause the roots to die and to stress the plant causing the stems to droop and leafs to curl and drop.

Plants require water for transpiration, which allows the plant to breathe and maintain their temperature and remain turgid and upright. Plants will try to reduce water loss through stem dropping, leaf curling or dropping of the leaves. A shortage of water can have a detrimental effect as roots begin to dry out and die. Even if water levels are returned to satisfactory levels the plants roots are damaged and so are unable to utilise this water.

So the reasons that the symptoms of overwatering and under watering are the same is because both result in damage to the fine roots that provide the plant with water, oxygen and nutrients. To avoid this check the soil first with your finger prior to watering to know if the compost is wet or dry. Keep an eye on newly planted or sown plants, especially in summer and dry spells. Hanging basket or container’s may require watering twice daily in dry weather, but you can often tell by the weight of pots how much water is in the soil.

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Watering plants

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