How often should I water my plants? The 10 rules of watering indoor and outdoor plants

Alan Titchmarsh offers tips on watering tomato plants

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Watering, you’ll likely already know, is something all plants need if they are to reach their full potential. But what you might not know is that watering incorrectly renders the plants vulnerable to all manner of disease and pests. Whether you’re looking to cultivate pretty outdoor perennials this summer or tend to your indoor jungle, there are some rules everyone should follow. 

How often should you water plants?

Depending on which kind of plant you have, watering should take place at least once a week.

Some plants rely more on water than others, so it’s best to do your research and find out what you’re dealing with.

As a rule of thumb, however, you should be watering plants when the soil feels dry to the touch.

But to make extra sure you’re not drowning the roots, stick your finger into the soil up to knuckle depth (or use a chopstick) and feel for moisture – if it’s dry, water, if it’s wet then don’t bother.

10 rules of watering plants

Keep them evenly moist

Most plants depend on even moisture, so water in a targeted way using a thin-nozzle watering can or wine bottle.

Slightly drying out before watering promotes root growth of the plants, however, so don’t be too heavy with the hydration.

Water less frequently but more thoroughly

In the flower bed, one to two watering sessions a week are usually more than enough, and the same goes for indoor plants (sometimes even less).

It’s better to water on a less regular basis but with plenty of water rather than vice versa.

Water at specific times

This rule counts especially during the warmer months of the year, as when you water in the afternoon much of it will evaporate in the heat of the sun.

Instead, water in the evening, at night or early in the morning to ensure the plants can sufficiently supply themselves with water before the next day’s heat arrives.

Keep the leaves dry

Wet leaves become diseased leaves, and if they’re left wet overnight, leaf-mould diseases will be almost guaranteed to occur.

Leaves that are made wet in the sun develop slight burn marks a well, through the burning glass effect of the water droplets.

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Do larger quantities in smaller parts

Water needs time to be able to seep into the soil and get to where it needs to go.

Before precious water in the bed flows away wasted and unused, it’s better to do your watering in short intervals if it’s a large quantity over a bigger surface.

Water with a target

Always watering at the same point will lead to one-sided root growth and consequently poor nutrient absorption in the soil.

To avoid this, always water around the plant and distribute it throughout the entire irrigation area.

Irrigate to save water

Water as much as necessary and as little as you possibly can.

This is simplified by installing an automatic irrigation system with a moisture sensor in your garden, saving you hundreds of pounds in the long term.

Water the right amount

When you’re watering, you must aim to get down to the roots as this is where the plants need the nutrients, and watering too little often only covers the surface of the soil and doesn’t reach the roots at all.

Crop plants (carrots, potatoes, basil, field salad, fruit etc.) are particularly reliant on evenly moist soil at all times, so this is a must.

Avoid waterlogging

Waterlogging may just be enemy number one of plants and flowers, most of which can’t survive sitting in water.

Make sure any indoor plants you own have a way of releasing excess water from their pots, the easiest way of which is to buy pots with drainage holes at the bottom.

Use quality soil

Plant soil rich in clay minerals has better expansion properties, therefore, it can hold soil in the water in a better and more even way.

During wet summers and winter, ensure water drainage is working to prevent waterlogging.

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