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Woman watering plants

Are You Watering Your Plants to Death?

New gardeners often make the same basic mistake–and many of them will give up, thinking that they have a “black thumb.” Over-watering plants is the biggest reason why gardens fail.

Killing Your Plants with Kindness

When you’re just starting out as a gardener, you may feel like you need to take an active role in managing your plants. New gardeners will often be out everyday weeding, watering, and tinkering. But many plants actually do better with a little bit of neglect.

It’s a very good idea to keep a journal that includes the frequency of rain storms and the temperature in your micro-climate. If the ground got a good soaking on Monday, you likely won’t need to do a thorough watering for a few days, depending on how warm it is.

The best way to check if your plants need water is to stick your finger in the soil. It might sound weird, but you can feel how moist the ground. If the soil still feels cool and damp below the surface, wait another day. If it’s dry all the way down to the end of your index finger, then water your plants.

Signs You Are Over-Watering Your Plants

Here’s a quick checklist to diagnose if you’ve been over-watering your garden:

  1. Wilting despite frequent watering
  2. Brown tips on the leaves
  3. Pale yellow or green leaves that fall off
  4. Stunted growth
  5. Blisters or lesions on the undersides of the leaves

Identifying the problem can be very frustrating for inexperienced gardeners because the symptoms of over-watering can sometimes mimic those of under-watering. However, if you pay attention to the soil and micro-climate as well as the plant, you will learn to tell the difference.

Sign #1: Wilting

The ground is moist, yet the plant seems to be wilting. This indicates that the roots are waterlogged and unable to transport oxygen to the plant. In essence, the plant is drowning.

Sign #2: Brown Tips

The leaves start turning brown at the tips and take on an unpleasantly limp, soft texture. While dehydrated plants turn crispy, water-logged plants behave more like lettuce that’s been left too long in the fridge.

Sign #3: Pale Leaves

Leaves are light yellow or pale green and start falling off. This is a sure sign that the plant is not thriving due to too much water.

Sign #4: Stunted Growth

Slow or stunted growth is another indicator that you have watered the plant too much. You might think that giving the plant extra water will help it perk up and grow faster, but instead you are just making the problem worse.

Sign #5: Edema

In extreme cases, the plant may develop edema. Just like in humans, plants can start retaining water. This results in blisters and bumps on the undersides of the leaves.

These blisters can turn hard, or expand into galls, and cause warped foliage. Sometimes they’ll burst and further damage the plants.

Summer Clayton

Summer Clayton

Summer Clayton has always loved getting her hands dirty. Ever since she was a kid playing in her grandparents’ garden, Summer wanted to learn everything she could about plants. Now she wants to help you grow a bigger, better, greener garden.

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