Tips on watering plants and watering systems

Credit: Brand X Pictures/Home and Garden/Alison Miksch

Tricks of the trade for watering container plants

During hot, dry weather, water your container plantings in the evening so the plants have the cool of night during which to absorb moisture. On damp summer days, water in the morning so that the plants have a chance to dry off before nightfall. This helps discourage the spread of fungal diseases.

Punch small holes into the bottom of a clean, empty plastic milk container, then fill it with water and place in an open space in your container planting. The water will drip slowly, keeping the soil moist. Great for the care of small container shrubs and trees when you’re going to be away for a few days.

Vacation watering tips

If you’re going to be away, group your container plants closely together in a spot that is shaded in the afternoon and close to the garden hose. It also helps to stand your pots in saucers so they do not need to be watered as often. This makes it easy for caregivers to look after your plants.

Automatic (managed by a timer) or drip irrigation systems that attach to your tap are a great way to keep container plantings well watered. This way you can forget about watering your plants (except for the occasional feeding, of course).
– Peter Symcox

When watering container plantings, always use a slow, gentle stream of water so as not to disturb the soil or shallow root area.

More container plants tips

Watering strawberry pots

Watering a strawberry pot, with its multiple apertures, can be tricky, but here is a never-fail technique. Before initially filling the strawberry pot with soil, I add a watering tube: a 5-cm-diameter (2″) PVC pipe with 2-cm (3/4″) holes drilled at 6-cm (2.5″) intervals over the entire surface. It could be angled to leave room for one main plant at the top of the pot, but my pot has four plants situated around the top of the pipe. In summer the plants hide the bit of pipe that sticks up above the surrounding soil. Watering is easy because the pipe can be filled several times and water then seeps into the surrounding soil. Also, remember to water the pockets as well.
– Carolyn Jones, GardenWise horticulturist

Keep container plants hydrated

Don’t let your container plantings dry out. Damage from drought to fine roots will set the plants back. To test for moisture, stick your finger 5 cm (2″) into the soil. If it comes up dry, it’s time to water. Remember, containers may require watering twice daily on very hot days.

Place shower caps over the bottom of hanging baskets to catch the overflow when watering. The caps can be removed after an hour or so.

Top-dressing your container planting with a layer of mulch will help conserve moisture. Cocoa hulls, moss, bark mulch or pea stone will help the soil retain moisture while also suppressing weeds.