While it sounds so simple, there are certain things you need to know about how to properly water plants.
For you to obtain healthy, happy, and most importantly, high yielding plants, your watering needs to be dialed in.
Two of the most common mistakes new growers make are overwatering and underwatering. These issues can not only prevent you from achieving your desired yield, they can quite honestly ruin your grow.
We're going to teach you best practices for providing your plants the perfect amount of water, every time.
But first, we want to explain the problems that can arise when you water too much or too little, to help you understand the gravity of this task.
What can happen when you underwater or overwater?
Watering your plants haphazardly with no regard for the quantity and/or frequency can lead to serious issues in your garden or grow room.
Overwatering is more common, as new growers tend to overestimate how much water their container plants truly need. Overwatering can lead to serious root related issues, such as root rot.
It also can contribute to all kinds of fungus and mold-related problems. When you water your plants too heavily or too frequently, your soil doesn't have a chance to dry out, which creates the perfect conditions for pathogens to infiltrate and reproduce.
If you are growing indoors, all that extra water goes up into the environment, creating humidity issues. This can lead to mold/mildew overtaking any area of the plant.
Conversely, under-watering can lead to issues. If you don't water your plants enough, they will be more prone to heat stress, while leading to stagnant growth.
Signs of underwatering and overwatering
You'll be able to tell relatively quickly if your plants are underwatered or overwatered.
If your plants are looking droopy, wilting, sickly, or lifeless, and the media is dry, it is likely an underwatering issue.
You can also look for yellowing or browning leaves, as this indicates the plant may be drying out.
The symptoms of overwatering are actually very similar to underwatering, which can make the diagnosis very difficult.
To tell the difference between under/overwatering, look for dark green leaves and curling/clawing of the leaves. This is an indication of overwatering.
So, the bottom line is you need to water just the right amount to sustain healthy plants.
But how do you know what this figure is? Let's cover the factors that go into how much water your plants need.
Factors affecting how frequently and heavily you should water plants
There are a few things that go into determining the right amount of water for your plants. These include growth period/size, grow media, and environmental factors.
Growth period and size of your plants
It should be apparent that the age of your plant plays a direct role in how much you should water it. You will start out watering very lightly, and likely infrequently.
But as your plant grows, you'll need to increase the amount you watering as well.
Drainage of your media
Another important factor going into how often and how much you need to water your plants is the particular media you are using.
Some drain much faster than others, and will need to be watered more frequently. An ideal media drains relatively quickly, as you don't want your roots waterlogged for long. They need oxygen too.
This is why you need to use garden pots that have drainage holes in the bottom.
Or, better yet, use fabric pots or air pots. These allow your roots to acquire oxygen through the sides of the pots, and lead to more rapid drainage. It is much more difficult to overwater if you use the best garden pots.
If you want to take it a step further, you can add media that encourages rapid draining, such as perlite.
Perlite increases the aeration and drainage of media, and can be mixed into just about any media. There are special mixes of soil or coco that have perlite and other amendments added in, to further improve drainage.
Some of the best media to prevent overwatering are:
- Mother Earth Coco + Perlite Soilless Mix
- Botanicare ReadyGro Aeration Formula
- Mother Earth Groundswell Performance Potting Soil
The third and final factor affecting your watering needs is the condition of your grow room or outdoor garden. Namely, how hot it is and how much direct light your plants will get.
If you are growing outdoors in the middle of summer, your plants are going to be really hot. In this instance, they will need to be watered heavier and more frequently.
On the other hand, if you are growing plants indoors in a mild climate, and use efficient LED grow lights and have your environment dialed in, you won't be battling heat and humidity as much. So you won't have to water as much.
How to properly water plants: best practices
No matter what your conditions are, we have some rules of thumb on how to properly water plants. These are just guidelines, as your individual grow will likely differ from the next grower.
As a grower, your job is to monitor your efforts, watch for issues, and adjust as needed. Not every grow will be the same.
Watering guidelines based on pot size
One way to estimate how much water your plants will need is based on the size of the container they are growing in.
We recommend watering with a full drench everytime. This means you thoroughly soak the media, allowing you to go more days in between without watering. This is generally superior to watering in lower quantities, more frequently.
As a rule of thumb, your plants will need a half gallon of water for every gallon of pot. If you are growing in a 5 gallon pot, a full drench would require about 2.5 gallons of water.
Use your finger as an indicator of how thirsty your plants are
The best way to tell whether or not you need to water your plants is by assessing conditions of your media.
Stick your finger into the media about in inch deep. This is typically around the first knuckle. If you feel the soil is moisturized, you don't need to water just yet.
This is easily te best way to determine whether you need to water or not, as you can assess the moisture content accurately.
Always pH your water before applying to the soil
If you aren't already aware of how pH affects nutrient uptake and availablity, you should read our complete guide on nutrients and pH.
But, the bottom line is that even if you aren't feeding nutrients, you need to ensure pH is in the ideal range. Otherwise, all kinds of issues can develop. the ideal pH range is between 5.8-6.8 for soil grown plants.
Checking pH is incredibly quick and easy, and shouldn't be overlooked. When using a high quality pH pen, it takes just a few seconds to test, and then a few more to adjust the pH as needed.
If you want to learn more about testing pH, PPM, and other important metrics, check out our complete guide.
Runoff from watering your plants
Another important aspect of watering your plants is the runoff. When your plants grow, they produces salts as a waste product. Salts left in the container can suffocate the roots.
Watering plants has two basic purposes. The first one is obviously to keep your plants from becoming thirsty. The second, but equally important, is to flush the soil of excess salts and nutrients.
Every time you go through the watering process, make sure that a small amount of water drains into your tray or saucer. This is a good indicator that you have sufficient drainage.
But, you need a means of removing this runoff efficiently. You can't leave your plants in a saucer with standing water, as this creates a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and other pathogens.
Some common ways growers handle runoff are by using a small shop-vac to suck up the runoff and empty it into the tub, toilet, or outside.
Another method is to have a separate tray for watering/feeding plants, and you can then replace plants to their normal home after the runoff has been collected.
How does feeding nutrients factor in?
You might be wondering how feeding nutrients factors in. Many feeding schedules have different recommendations, based on how frequently you need to feed.
But, in general, its a good idea to feed nutrients every other watering. Give them plain water, and then a few days later when the media has dried, you can mix in your nutrients to feed.
If you want to learn more about feeding your plants, check out our complete guide.
Final thoughts on how to properly water plants
Now that you know how to properly water plants, you have a better chance of preventing underwatering and overwatering.
The best way to dial in your watering schedule is to keep a detailed grow journal and checklist, and monitor any changes you make and how they affect your plant health and growth.
If you don't yet have all the supplies you need for watering your plants, such as pH pens, pots, soil, check out our site. We have the widest selection of products, with the best prices and service online.
If you aren't quite sure what you need, or you have any growing related questions, our expert growers are ready to help. You can call us at 888-815-9763 or by email here.