Beginner gardeners who are just starting out may have come across an experience similar to this. You decide to grow a veggie patch so you can grow your own fresh fruit and vegetables- that’s great! You buy the pots, plants, dig out your garden or raised bed, and add the compost, soil, organic matter, etc. Doing good so far. You plant your little seedlings and water them every day. They start growing and you think you have the hang of this gardening business…
BUT then you forget to water them for a few days. To make up for it, you just water them a bit extra when you remember. But now your plants are drooping and wilted? Perhaps they have not had enough water you think, so you proceed to give your plants more water. Your plants look even worse now and are dying- sound familiar?
You are not alone, many gardeners have similar experience when first starting out, but it is all part of the learning process. Overwatering and underwatering are both two common mistakes beginner gardeners get wrong. If you catch these problems in time you may be able to still salvage your plant. If left too long, overwatering and underwatering can be detrimental to your precious plants.
Let’s look at both underwatering and overwatering and how you can fix the problem.
Underwatering plants is the most common issue for beginner gardeners. Perhaps you simply forget to water them, or are too worried about overwatering, you end up underwatering! Whatever the reason, you can likely save your plant if you spot the signs early enough. Remember, it could take around 5 to 7 weeks before your plant is back to its old self.
Here are some common signs that your plant is underwatered…
• The soil is very dry. If the soil around your plant is very dry, or has gone hard and crunchy, it is a sure sign that is needs more water.
• Wilted leaves. Just like when overwatering, the plants leaves will also wilt if they do not have enough water. Instead of being soft and droopy, they will be dry and crispy if underwatered.
• Brown leaves. If the edges of the leaves are turning brown, dry, and crispy, it is a sign your plant needs more water.
• Stunted growth. If your plant is being underwatered, it will probably be very slow in growing, or not even grow at all.
• Leaves turn yellow. If the leaves are turning yellow, it could be a sign of both underwatering or overwatering. If underwatered the leaves at the bottom of the plant will be yellowing and curling, and the soil will be dry.
• Dull leaves. As your plant may not be getting all the nutrients it needs, the leaves may look a bit dull and lifeless, and not as green as they should be.
• Weak stem. The stem of your plant may look weak, like it could easily snap, instead of being strong and flexible.
• Soil pulling away. If the soil is starting to pull away form the outsides of the pot, it may be underwatered.
What should you do if you have underwatered your plants?
Underwatering your plants could be detrimental, depending on the type of plant. Some will not survive without regular watering and some will handle a lack of water, to some extent.
• Give it a drink. As soon as you notice signs of underwatering, give it a good drink of water to help replenish lost nutrients. Ensure the water reaches right down to the roots.
• Talk to an expert. Ask at your local garden centre or check online about how much water your plant prefers, as each type of plant will differ.
• Regularly water. Try and water your plants at the same time and day each week. Sticking to a schedule may be helpful if you find yourself forgetting to water. If the soil is still looking dry, then shorten the time between each watering.
• Check the soil. Keep checking the soil around your plant, if the soil is dry about 2 inches deep, then your plant needs watering.
• Be aware of the seasons. As temperatures fluctuate through each season, be aware that your plant may need more water during the hotter months.
Overwatering your plants is a very common mistake from beginner gardeners and many people are surprised that plants can actually have too much water. When you over water your plants you starve them of oxygen, which in turn starves them of nutrition.
Over watering is also common in pot plants as well as garden plants. Inevitably, you forget to water them, and then you overcompensate with too much water. When there is too much water in the soil there is no room for oxygen, and the plant essentially drowns. Really soggy soil also creates the perfect conditions for disease to grow, such as root rot.
Let’s look at some signs of overwatering in plants…
• Wilted brown leaves. When plants receive too much water the leaves will eventually turn brown and start to wilt. The leaves will be droopy, soft, and weak.
• Yellowing leaves. Your plants leaves may also turn a yellow colour. If new leaves are also turning yellow and falling off quickly, it is a sign that you are overwatering.
• Stunted growth. Your plant will be slow at growing or stop growing all together.
• Root rot. Overwatering can drown the roots in water, leading to the roots not growing correctly or not being able to take in nutrients from the soil. Diseases such as root rot can also form.
• Green soil. The soil around you plant may appear green, due to algae that has formed. You may also notice a foul smell coming from your soil.
• Pests. Another sign of overwatering is the presence of pests. This is because certain pests can thrive in a damp environment.
• Blisters on leaves. You may spot blisters or brown/ white growths on the underside of the leaves.
What should you do if you have overwatered your plants?
If you have caught the plant I time, you are in luck! As soon as you notice any of the signs above, then you can quickly rectify the problems and save your plant.
• Remove dead leaves. First, start by removing any dead or decaying leaves from your plant. Leaves that are wilted are no good but may still be taking in nutrients. Remove these so the rest of the still healthy leaves can get all the nutrients. Remove any dead leaves from the ground by your plant, as these can rot and attract pests.
• Check for root rot. If you find the roots of your plant have turned dark brown or black, then your plant is likely to have root rot. Cut back any dead, or decaying roots, thoroughly wash the plant pot, and change into a fresh soil. You may want to separate the roots out a little to allow oxygen to flow around them.
• Stop watering for a while. If you have overwatered your plants, then just stop for a few days or even a week. Do not water or fertilise your plants during this time, but regularly check on them. Test the soil to see how wet it is before you start watering.
How beginner gardeners can prevent overwatering plants in soil
• Always check your soil. Every time before you water your plant, check the soil to see how wet or dry it is. Place your finger about 2 inches into the soil. If it feels wet and looks a dark colour, it does not need watering. If it feels dry and is a light colour, then it is good to water. You can also buy a soil moisture gauge if that suits you. Remember to check how much water each individual plant requires, as different plants have varying needs.
• Water in the day. It is best to water your plants in the daytime, so the sunlight can help evaporate the moisture better. If watering at night, the soil or leaves may stay moist, encouraging disease or pests.
• Use a soil or growing medium with good drainage. A good draining soil is essential to avoid overwatering. At Mr Stacky we recommend using a growing medium of coco coir. When mixed with a little perlite, it provides amazing growing conditions for our vertical gardens.
How to completely solve under & over watering…
Solving the over/under watering equation is a GAME CHANGER! Imagine, if you simply could never over water your plants. The key to solving this is in the growing medium used.
Hydroponic growing mediums are designed to ensure optimal oxygen when fully saturated.
When your plants roots are suspended in fresh oxygenated nutrient rich water, and then given sunlight and space to grow, that’s exactly what they do…. GROW and GROW and GROW!
We’ve tried every hydroponic method out there. From simple kratky to ebb & flow, NFT, DWC, drip, drain to waste etc…
You’ve probably heard of coco peat. You know, the stuff those little jiffy starter cubes are made of. Coco Coir is organic & made from the husk of the coconut. https://www.mrstacky.com.au/vertical-gardens/5kg-coco-coir/
In addition to Coco’s wonderfully loose, well draining, soft, fluffy & absorbent texture, it’s most valued asset is it’s oxygen holding properties.
Even when it’s fully saturated, it still holds up to 22% oxygen.
Coco is very forgiving and perfect for home gardeners. Basically, the stuff just works! Once you start using it, you will not go back to soil…
Coco comes in compressed, expandable, affordable 5KG blocks.
Because coco is so absorbent, it’s like a wick, soaking up water to all areas of the planter. Because it’s so porous, it drains all the excess water fully. Because it’s dark & dense, it buffers against temperature & hydration variance. Because it’s so oxygenated, you can’t over water your plants!
Coco coir is PLANT ROOT HEAVEN.
For beginner gardeners it can be tricky to find the right balance between overwatering and underwatering your plants. Why not try out our Mr Stacky pots or a complete hydroponic system. we even have solar or electric charged gardens, which water for you! These systems are great for those who are rushed on time or forget to water. Our tiered vertical gardens work by watering just the top pot, and the water will flow through to the rest of the plants below. We have had many beginner gardeners grow amazing fruit and veg for the first time.