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Irrigation

Water is essential for plants to survive. It dissolves and transports nutrients, provides cooling and stabilizes the plant by maintaining turgor pressure. Whether your balcony is covered or not does not really matter much when it comes to watering. Watering intervals and amounts are very similar for both balcony options. This is because the leaves, especially with lush leaf growth, drain most of the rainwater to the side, so the root area of the plant hardly gets any water even when it rains. 

„Turgor(pressure)“: Pressure that cell sap exerts on a wall of the plant cell.

What do I need to consider when watering my pot garden?

1. Water preferably in the morning

Especially in summer, the right timing is important. Water best in the morning or evening, when the soil is still cool. Between 5 and 6 o’clock in the morning, for example, up to 80 % less water evaporates than at midday. Avoid midday and do not water when the sun is strong. Not only does much of the water evaporate, but plants can also suffer burns, especially if the leaves are watered. Watering in the morning also reduces the risk of fungal diseases or slug infestation, as the plants can dry well during the day.

2. Water your plants purposefully

Avoid showering over the plant on a large scale. This causes the water to be directed away over the leaves and to evaporate before it reaches the roots. Wet leaves also promote fungal diseases. Water instead specifically the root area of your plant.

3. Water in stages

Do not water too much at once, but only as much as the soil can absorb. Wait a bit after the first watering and let the water seep away. Then water vigorously. 

4. Use rainwater or (stale) tap water

Besides rainwater, tap water is also suitable for watering. It is best to fill the tap water into several watering cans and let it stand for some time. This causes lime to settle and warms the water, which plants can take better than cold water.

5. Avoid waterlogging

Make sure your containers and planters have holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain away. If using a saucer, pour away water that accumulates after watering so your plants do not get root rot. Also, make sure you have a drainage layer inside your container.

How often do I need to water my plants?

In general, you should water as needed. The amount of water required depends on the plant, the temperature, and the size of the container used. Also, the soil must not dry out under any circumstances before germination, which is why watering is generally increased after sowing. Flat-rooted plants need more water because the upper soil layers dry out more quickly. Fast-growing fruit vegetables that develop a lot of leaf mass in a short time also have a higher water demand. Generally, the larger the plant’s leaves, the more water it needs because there is more evaporative surface area. The size of the pot also affects the amount of watering. A large pot provides more soil volume that can store more water than a small pot.

„Flat-rooted plants“: Cultivars (e.g., cucumbers) that root in the top 15-20 cm of soil.

How do I know that I need to water?

Finger test

Put your finger or a wooden stick 3-5 cm into the soil and check the moisture level of the soil. 

Observation of the leaves

Plants protect themselves from heat by closing their stomata and drooping their leaves to reduce the evaporation area. Therefore, it might happen that your plant wilts its leaves during the day. However, that does not mean that you have to water right away. Only if your plant still looks floppy in the morning, it’s a sign that it needs water.

How can I reduce watering intervals?

  • Use large planters that can store more water
  • Choose plants that need little water
  • Enrich your substrate with bentonite, humus, compost and/or sheep’s wool to improve the water absorption and retention capacity
  • Water specifically the root zone of your plants
  • Hoe regularly to loosen the crusted soil surface and prevent evaporation or surface runoff of water
  • Cover the soil with a layer of mulch

„Substrate“: Usually industrially produced mixture of various mineral and organic materials used for growing and cultivating plants.

Mulching...

„Mulch“: Soil coverage that retains moisture and suppresses weeds.

What kind of watering aids are there?

Ollas

  • Clay pots which are traditionally used as irrigation reservoirs in hot regions
  • Suitable especially for plants whose roots can grow towards the water (e.g. tomatoes, peppers)
  • Open-porous clay material diffuses water slowly to the outside and waters surrounding plants

Wick Irrigation (or Capillary Irrigation)

  • Irrigation method that supplies water to plants from a lower water reservoir through wicks (e.g. glass fiber wicks) with the aid of capillarity
  • The greater the distance between the water reservoir and the contact point of the wick in the substrate, the lower is the water release rate
  • The greater the differential moisture between the wet wick and the drier substrate, the more water is released

Drip Irrigation

  • Systems for potted plants usually consist of a main hose or pipe with various branches connected to drip nozzles
  • Very efficient, as watering can be targeted and the slow release allows water to seep into the soil better

Water Storage Mats

  • Store about 6 times as much water as their own weight
  • Are made of fleece or polyurethane foam, depending on the manufacturer
  • Are available in different sizes and can be cut with scissors

Hi, I’m Lisa from Permapot. I’ve been growing my own vegetables in my small urban garden and on my terrace for 4 years now. With Permapot I would like to make it easier for you to get started with urban gardening!

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