The Proper Way to Water a Potted Plant

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Emilya

Well-Known Member
The Proper Way to Water a Potted Plant
Also covered: the importance of pH and why we successively up-pot


How to Water
Over the last several years I have put a lot of study into this, and I feel that I can now define the proper way to water a potted plant. Keep in mind that this discussion applies to at least 3 gallon containers and bigger. Please realize that this special plant of ours does not grow like anything else you have ever tried to grow, and no matter how good you are at growing peas, beans and tomatoes, you will have to change your methods to grow a weed.


The first rule of watering is to always water slowly, using no more than a quart at a time, pausing often to let the soil suck air in behind the water as it pools on the top. For me, that involves a routine of watering each of my plants with 1 quart, then taking a nice relaxing drink of whatever beverage I have brought with me to the tent. Then I take a deep breath, making sure to exhale deeply onto this plant, letting her know that I love her. After this, I take a nice big hit off of the pipe that also followed me into the tent, and then after a nice pause and maybe another drink, I go back to plant #1 and repeat the cycle. For 2 rounds, I water the entire surface of the soil, watching it pool up and get sucked down.


After this initial wetting of the top, my watering method changes a bit. Now, I want to do whatever I can to make the outside edges of the container, the wettest areas. Still only using a quart at a time, I now carefully water only there, all around the plant, only on the edges. While doing this, I slow down a bit so that the water doesn't pool as much in the center, always concentrating on the edges. The center will end up getting some too, and that's fine, but the wettest areas of the pot will be on the outside edges and you will be driving nutrient rich soil into the dense original root ball. Continue this, again going slow, maybe with a deep breath in the middle of it, and then continue all around, taking drinks, deep breaths and hits in between each round. Continue until you see the first signs of runoff, and then stop.


Look carefully at the surface of your container now. You will clearly see where the root ball is from your last transplant, because it will now be sticking up just a little bit above the original outer rim. Very fine soil has been driven through the original root ball with the flow of water and soil from the outer edges. This micro fine soil is very rich with nutrients because of its mobility. When you water from the outside edges, you force this micro fine sludge into the dense root ball, where it can do the most good. Once you establish this flow pattern in the container, you can be assured of totally replacing the micro soil in the center of the root ball with new soil, every time you water. Watering in the normal way does not create his circular flow, and root growth cannot be nearly as aggressive.

Lastly, take one last quart of water, and water very very slowly, just in the raised area where the original root ball is. As you do so, watch what happens at the outer edge of the original root ball.

You will see the very finest soil, almost a mud, migrating out of the old root ball, and into the middle! This completes the process of soil exchange in the container. In this manner, all the roots get to take advantage of the nutrients in the soil, and the roots follow the migration of the nutrient rich soil, toward the outer edges, creating lateral growth. I strive to actively drive the soil out of the middle, making room for the roots to grow more dense and bigger there, and as they do, the lateral growth also has to increase. Using this method, I have seen a steady increase in the amount of water needed to get to run off throughout the grow and by the end, plants watered in this way use approximately 30% more water than is seen using standard watering techniques. Watering in the manner I have described allows for a constant circular flow of soil throughout the container and will create an extremely dense root ball.



Now it is time for a truism. It is best to water the roots, not the plant. A healthy and robust root system means a happy and productive plant. Neglect the roots and your plants can die, and certainly will be less than they could have been.

When do we water?
By far, one of the most common plant problems that I see with new gardeners is a lack of understanding as to when to water. New people get it set in their mind that watering every day or every other day is best, or that somehow, mysteriously, they know in their own human minds exactly how much water the plants need. These well-meaning new gardeners will determine that they will give exactly one quart or some other random amount, each time, no more... and no less, and really believe that they are doing a good thing for their plants, making these decisions for them.
Just as bad as these over-thinkers are the tomato gardeners, the "stick your finger in the ground" crowd, who proclaim: it's time to water when it is dry below the second knuckle. What they fail to realize is that when the top 2 inches is dry, the lower half of the container could still be saturated with water. Both of these common mistakes in watering methods are quick ways to drown your plants. These methods are not correct for growing weeds, and using them can actually kill your plants.


Marijuana is a weed, and the main thing that this scientific term refers to, is a class of plant that thrives in adversity. In order to grow it well, you need to understand that this incredibly robust plant works differently than other, less hardy plants. It is an extremely aggressive grower if you allow it to be, and to grow prize winning pot, you need to use its abilities to send out new roots to your advantage.


Watering incorrectly is the most common mistake that new weed farmers make. This plant needs a clear wet/dry cycle in order to thrive. If you keep it moist, you will kill it. The roots will aggressively chase your water, whatever you give them. If you just give a small amount every couple of days, that water will drop right to the bottom of the container. Your roots will follow, and will cluster on the bottom, instead of growing laterally throughout the container, and since they continually sit in the nutrient rich water, the plant sees little need to grow additional roots. How you water makes a huge difference in the formation of the root ball, and how this development happens is up to you.


There are many ways to tell when it is time to water, and if you wait long enough the girls will actually tell you that they are thirsty. They do two things when they see that they need water, they throw out a smell, and they begin to wilt, starting at the bottom, moving up. You can also use the lift method to tell when the container is dry, and almost always you will "feel" a dry container, before the above mentioned wilt and fragrance pump happens. Rusty Trichome taught me an important lesson; every time I think that I need to do something to my plants, I wait a bit... and I try to move at the speed that my plants are moving. "Patience, above all else." --Rusty


If you have a moisture meter you can also use it to find where the wet/dry (water table) line is in your container, and you can watch that wet/dry line move down over time. I used to graph my water table level by day, so that I could project ahead when the wet dry line would reach the last inch of container. Your wet/dry line will never go lower than that last inch or so, because once you get down in there, you are in all the big tap roots and mass at the bottom, and it tends to stay wet there longer because of capillary effect. Again, if you wait for the first sign of wilt and that perfume pump that happens at "water me" point, it will usually be just a bit longer than your measurements would indicate. Once the water table line is anywhere in that bottom inch is ok to water. You have dried out 95% of the water by that time and the roots have been chasing it as the wet/dry line progresses both downward and outward. The suction caused by the diaphragm that is the water table, will have pulled oxygen down deep into the container, and filled any voids. The roots will be happy.


Why do we up-pot?
The art of successive up-potting is important in growing a healthy root system. People like to be lazy. I am constantly seeing new gardeners take a little sprig of a weed and put it in a big 3 or 5 gallon container, thinking that they have done a good thing, and are now done with it... it's on to harvest time! The problem is, this doesn't work, because it gives you zero control over developing the roots, and without crazy watering techniques, almost no chance of a solid root ball forming. It is imperative to successively up pot your plants through stages so that the root system can roughly take on the same size and shape as the plant in order to get the maximum productivity. The roots grow aggressively in these weeds, and if you confine them to a container the size of the plant, they will fill that space in a short time with a dense root system. Putting a plant in an oversized container can and often does, result in all the roots going to the bottom, drowning the plant, root rot and overall poor health because of a lack of a root ball, and certainly less than optimum harvests. It is important to force these weeds into producing a root ball at various stages, to give the plant the ability later on to take in the massive amounts of nutrients needed to produce lots of quality buds.
The plants in the smaller containers can also more directly show you when they are thriving or more importantly when they are not. A strong healthy plant will eventually outgrow its container and an observant gardener is carefully watching the length of time between wet/dry cycles, and directly relating shorter cycles with more robust roots. A smaller container also gives the gardener the ability to see when the moment arrives that the amount of soil the plant is in is no longer large enough for the plant's abilities to be happy in it, because it will be obvious when the plant can drain the water that soil is able to hold, in less than 24 hours. Your soil and your container at that point have ceased at that point to be a good enough buffer, and it is time to double the space the roots have to work with. Let your plant show you when that time is, and try not to make decisions for her.


Why is pH important?
Some people claim that pH is not important, and if you are a pure organic gardener, never applying chlorinated water or salt based synthetic nutrients at your plants, pH indeed is not important. For the 99.9% rest of the world, a very important lesson for the new gardener to learn is the importance of pH. There is a scientific reason why a proper pH allows the plants to use synthetic nutrients, and why being outside of the proper range can cause deficiencies. If you want to grow pot using chemicals, you need to invest in a method to test the pH of any water going into the plant, whether it is plain water or water mixed with nutrients, and whether it is applied to the roots or sprayed on the leaves. If you neglect the pH, you can easily create deficiencies in your plants, and if left unchecked, you can even kill them. If you spend a lot of money on nutrients, it makes sense that you would want to also create the proper environment so that the plant can use these nutrients, but with a pH way out of the 6.3-6.8 range in soil, a lot of those expensive nutrients will just sit there, not doing the plant any good. If you are in a soilless mix, pH in the range of 5.5-6.1 is necessary. It is only within these ranges that all the nutrients are mobile, are able to be broken free of their salt bonds and be in the form that can go into the plants. Most soils and systems are designed so that you can apply liquids at a lower pH and then the soil or the soilless mix causes a drift, so that the pH can visit each spot in the usable pH range for that medium, and all of the 17 needed nutrients will be picked up, each in its turn.


I hope that this study on containers, watering and pH helps someone who reads it. This paper was a result of having to explain these same concepts over and over and over again to new growers at they hit the forums, until finally I put all these thoughts together into this paper. Some of the thoughts previously given have also been refined for this publication, as questions were asked and answered the last time I posted it, and I have learned better ways of explaining my thoughts. Here, I give you, approximately draft 10 of this paper.


Be well everyone and blessings from my garden to yours,
Sense Emilya
 
I really wish I had seen this 2.5 weeks ago. Theres a LOT of bad info out there..I followed it.
Thank you.
 

DeanB

New Member
I grow in 1 gallon pots and in the medium I use which is Canadian sphagnum peat moss (80-90% by volume) it takes 1L of water to soak it. I water the same as you except I haven't been doing the center ball. I've been watering 1/2L inside, 1/2L outside. Now I will break it down into 3rds and get that center ball. Thanks for the information. :Namaste:
 
Outside of us 1st timers making the mistake of over or under watering our plants Id say the next big hurdle regarding this issue is finding accurate information on;
1) Did I over or under water and what are the signs, what does the plant look like when this occurs?
2) What are the possible remedies for both situations?
3) What to expect during the remedy period?
This information has been terribly difficult for me to obtain (except for here) over the internet as Im constantly getting mixed information.
For you reg long timers you'd think this was a silly thing, but its not...at least for me.
The oroig post is worth its weight in gold..or bud if you prefer.
 
Thread starter #6

Emilya

Well-Known Member
Outside of us 1st timers making the mistake of over or under watering our plants Id say the next big hurdle regarding this issue is finding accurate information on;
1) Did I over or under water and what are the signs, what does the plant look like when this occurs?
2) What are the possible remedies for both situations?
3) What to expect during the remedy period?
This information has been terribly difficult for me to obtain (except for here) over the internet as Im constantly getting mixed information.
For you reg long timers you'd think this was a silly thing, but its not...at least for me.
The oroig post is worth its weight in gold..or bud if you prefer.
Let's see if I can help.

Under watering, the plants simply wilt, starting at the bottom and then finally the entire trunk will bend over. Underwatering is rare, but it does happen, and the cure is to water completely and properly. Underwatering is stressful, but actually less harmful to the roots than overwatering, unless it happens all the time, so much that it keeps the plant from growing.

Overwatering causes a droop of the leaves, different than a wilt, and the leaves will all point downward. A happy plant reaches upward, a sad plant points to its roots to show that it is unhappy. An overwatered plant will try to get out of trouble by supercharging its ability to evaporate water. When the plant does this in increases its surface area of the leaves at the top and in a breeze, and crinkles the leaves up and swells them in a way that is a dead giveaway to those who know this sight. With continual overwatering, the lowest fan leaves will begin to yellow and the plant will show all signs of a nitrogen deficiency. Growth will slow and leaves will die and fall off starting from the bottom and working their way up. A severely overwatered plant looks sick. The cure for this one is to let the plant dry out, every time, between waterings.

During the healing period of overwatering, you should expect a gradual greening of the yellowed leaves and extremely slow growth. You should expect droopy leaves and a sad looking plant until the lower roots are able to finally get oxygen. A severely overwatered and damaged plant could take as long as 3 wet/dry cycles to get back to normal aggressive weed growth, definitely at least 2 weeks in severe cases.
An underwatered plant requires next to no recovery period. If you catch her in time, simply watering properly will bring her back to normal looking in under an hour.

Hope this clears things up for you James...
 

Curly Beaver

Well-Known Member
How do you gauge when to up-pot a seedling from it's original container Emilia? Being that I am always stingy with water, they are always light as a feather. I have 4 plants that are going to need it soon.
Thanks for taking the time share your thoughts :thanks: +Reps
 
Thread starter #8

Emilya

Well-Known Member
How do you gauge when to up-pot a seedling from it's original container Emilia? Being that I am always stingy with water, they are always light as a feather. I have 4 plants that are going to need it soon.
Thanks for taking the time share your thoughts :thanks: +Reps
Even in the little 1" starter containers, it is pretty easy to tell when they are still moist or wet, compared to bone dry. Seedlings are pretty tender, so I do tend to keep them a little more moist at first, but then I do try to judge as best I can when they have used up the available water. When I see that wet/dry cycle go to about a day, that is when I move them to solo cups. Lately however, I have been starting all my seeds in solo cups, and then this issue doesn't really come up... I keep the surface moist until the seedling establishes itself (doesn't move around when I water) and then I revert to proper watering techniques within the first week. In a solo cup it is a lot easier to tell by weight, but even here, I have been known to move the postal scale into the veg tent, just to double check my "feel" for the weight... I too tend to be an overwatererer when left to my own devices and have to carefully watch myself. The stoned Emily can get in all kinds of trouble without controls.
 

Curly Beaver

Well-Known Member
Even in the little 1" starter containers, it is pretty easy to tell when they are still moist or wet, compared to bone dry. Seedlings are pretty tender, so I do tend to keep them a little more moist at first, but then I do try to judge as best I can when they have used up the available water. When I see that wet/dry cycle go to about a day, that is when I move them to solo cups. Lately however, I have been starting all my seeds in solo cups, and then this issue doesn't really come up... I keep the surface moist until the seedling establishes itself (doesn't move around when I water) and then I revert to proper watering techniques within the first week. In a solo cup it is a lot easier to tell by weight, but even here, I have been known to move the postal scale into the veg tent, just to double check my "feel" for the weight... I too tend to be an overwatererer when left to my own devices and have to carefully watch myself. The stoned Emily can get in all kinds of trouble without controls.
OK, I will water them down good right now and when that dries out move them into a lil bigger pot.
 
Amazingly timely information Emilya,

Thank you and reps for sharing. I need to change my ways and have only just brought a saturated plant back from the brink by re-potting with fresh soil. Beaver saved the bacon for me, that's for sure.

Regards
 

nivek

Well-Known Member
Heya em,, well done, A, indeed for effort,, reps too,, your method is near exact what I do,, more or less,, i saturate and then I do the word that is the exact opposite of saturate,, then repeat as needed,, :Namaste:

One thing I found, maybe i can contribute,,

I use one gallon pots, exclusively nearly,, round plastic pots,, but, this would probably apply to bigger as well, up to a point anyway,,,,I find the holes at the bottom of these pots to be far too big,, the water never hangs around long enough in the pot to 'thoroughly' soak the whole mass, in my opinion and experience,,:Namaste:

So,, i wrap the bottom of the pot with good Ole duct tape, cover the holes completely,, under too if any there,, then I take a punch I have and poke five or six good size holes, eighth inch or so, through the tape where the big holes were:high-five:,,one through each old hole or similar,,

This method gives the soil mass plenty of time to saturate,, i actually, over the course of four or five large glasses of my watering solution, as you said, over a few minutes, my final couple of glasses actually fill the pot totally up with water, near overflowing,, bubbles come out of the soil everywhere, space in the soil mass that would have stayed dry,, and when I am ferting,, only the last one or two glasses have the fert,, first three or so just my heavily diluted (warning,, graphic details ahead,,,,,,,,) urine solution,,

Works fer me till it don't,, looking at fabric pots,, not sure what will change,,

Btw, I have gone through maybe three cycles with these pots taped up, tape still good as new,, the dry inbetween preserves it,, yep
Enjoy reading your posts,,, cheers:Namaste:
 

nivek

Well-Known Member


An example, maybe,, ooo, a good example,,:yahoo:
 
Thread starter #13

Emilya

Well-Known Member
Heya em,, well done, A, indeed for effort,, reps too,, your method is near exact what I do,, more or less,, i saturate and then I do the word that is the exact opposite of saturate,, then repeat as needed,, :Namaste:

One thing I found, maybe i can contribute,,

I use one gallon pots, exclusively nearly,, round plastic pots,, but, this would probably apply to bigger as well, up to a point anyway,,,,I find the holes at the bottom of these pots to be far too big,, the water never hangs around long enough in the pot to 'thoroughly' soak the whole mass, in my opinion and experience,,:Namaste:

So,, i wrap the bottom of the pot with good Ole duct tape, cover the holes completely,, under too if any there,, then I take a punch I have and poke five or six good size holes, eighth inch or so, through the tape where the big holes were:high-five:,,one through each old hole or similar,,

This method gives the soil mass plenty of time to saturate,, i actually, over the course of four or five large glasses of my watering solution, as you said, over a few minutes, my final couple of glasses actually fill the pot totally up with water, near overflowing,, bubbles come out of the soil everywhere, space in the soil mass that would have stayed dry,, and when I am ferting,, only the last one or two glasses have the fert,, first three or so just my heavily diluted (warning,, graphic details ahead,,,,,,,,) urine solution,,

Works fer me till it don't,, looking at fabric pots,, not sure what will change,,

Btw, I have gone through maybe three cycles with these pots taped up, tape still good as new,, the dry inbetween preserves it,, yep
Enjoy reading your posts,,, cheers:Namaste:
lol, so many ways to get there, but yeah, you get it. Sort of the man in a hurry's way of watering to saturation, and like a man with a platinum man card, it is done with duct tape. The only way to improve on this would be to advise people to use WD40 to remove the tape at the end.
 

nivek

Well-Known Member
lol, so many ways to get there, but yeah, you get it. Sort of the man in a hurry's way of watering to saturation, and like a man with a platinum man card, it is done with duct tape. The only way to improve on this would be to advise people to use WD40 to remove the tape at the end.
Ha, cheers,, tho,, no removal necessary,, rince, repeat, then rince, repe,,,,,.:Namaste:
 

arteekay

Member of the Month: Feb 2016
Great post from the H20 Queen Emilya.

Edited to add: I've added this thread to my signature, as I'm quite sure I'll be referring to it often.
 
"Marijuana is a weed, and the main thing that this scientific term refers to, is a class of plant that thrives in adversity. This plant needs a clear wet/dry cycle in order to thrive. If you keep it moist, you will kill it. The roots will aggressively chase your water, whatever you give them."

Is this actually a fact of weeds or just potted plants? Cause hydro grows seem to be the best rooting environments for cannabis but they're moist all the time. Is a pot of soil superior when watered correctly?
 
Thread starter #17

Emilya

Well-Known Member
Versai, this thread is not a comparison of container or soil vs hydro, but to answer your question, think of hydro like being force fed via tubes in the hospital. It is possible to make the patient grow, and even thrive under this intense care. The debate isn't whether it is possible to create great roots via hydro, because it is. This is a thread about what happens in closed containers, and how to properly water, not how to run a carefully controlled hydro operation. It is not a mystery that hydro methods which call for applying chelated nutes directly to the roots, produces quality roots, good weight and quality buds. Hydro however is unnatural and everything that the plants get nutritionally is something that either you or the nutrient manufacturers provided to them, force feeding the plants what you think the plants need and forcing them to comply with your feeding schedule.

Is a pot of regular soil, watered with synthetic nutes superior to hydro? Probably not. Is hydro superior to a totally organic container grow, where the plant makes all the decisions and has everything it could possibly need in the soil, waiting for the plant to use it? It is not even close. A hydro crop will taste artificial, mine will not. Hydro may have produced more weight, but arguably, organic soil produces the best tasting and highest quality product, and in my mind, that makes it superior.
 
I wasn't asking to compare hydro vs soil, but it looks like you have already. I was only curious about the idea that weeds need dry cycles. I'm interested in growing another medicinal weed besides cannabis where the roots will be the targeted harvest, so I'm researching any tips to maximize root growth. Was confused whether "This plant needs a clear wet/dry cycle in order to thrive." was speaking of all weeds or just cannabis in soil pots. Seemed to contradict the cycle-less hydro methods which I thought were best at root thriving.
 
Thread starter #19

Emilya

Well-Known Member
I wasn't asking to compare hydro vs soil, but it looks like you have already. I was only curious about the idea that weeds need dry cycles. I'm interested in growing another medicinal weed besides cannabis where the roots will be the targeted harvest, so I'm researching any tips to maximize root growth. Was confused whether "This plant needs a clear wet/dry cycle in order to thrive." was speaking of all weeds or just cannabis in soil pots. Seemed to contradict the cycle-less hydro methods which I thought were best at root thriving.
It did seem that you were making that comparison Versai, but lets look at what you have asked more carefully. Roots need oxygen and in soil it is done by the water table creating suction to pull oxygen down into the soil. In hydro you either aerate your water or you cycle your pumps, allowing the roots to see oxygen during part of the process. Nothing appears to contradict anything else here. Please explain what a cycle-less hydro method is and why getting oxygen is not part of this process. In DWC we use an airstone, and in my aquaponics setup, I cycled the pumps every 4 minutes... either way, we are still dealing with how to get oxygen to the plants.
 
Maybe there is no contradiction. By cycle-less I mean no wet/dry cycle; I thought people just ran their air pumps continuously. I know oxygen is what's important, but you seemed to be scientifically emphasizing how wet/dry cycles are crucial for weed thriving. It confused me when you say weeds thrive by seeking out water, but they're always in contact with water in hydro and still thrive... then you really mean roots seek out oxygen?