Plant pots question re watering/overwatering

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by janetdoyle, Jul 19, 2010.

  1. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Don't know if this is the correct sub-forum, but here goes. Re water collecting in the bottom dishes of balcony plant pots, large ones... I'd like to water the top layer of soil for some newly-added fillers, but there is still water in the bottom saucers. The pots are too heavy to lift frequently. However, the top soil layer dries out a bit and I am afraid of desiccating some newly added small fillers... What do the experts do? [It's as if I need a little pump to pump out the excess water!] Naturally I don't want to drown the plants... Two pots hold broadleaved evergreen shrubs with a few extra little fillers added, soil there is coarse and acid soil/rotted bark/grit as recommended, one pot is solely annuals and standard potting soil on top of some coarser mix -- fuchsia and begonias.

    Air is now dry in Victoria, BC, and although very moderate in temperature things dry out [except the saucers of water, of course...]
     
  2. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    This may not be helpful, depending on your site, but I turn the trays upside down under the pots that I keep outdoors. If you are on a balcony and need to catch the drip, this may not be possible. I do this to prevent any water buildup in the trays, which is not good for the plant and could breed mosquitoes. Outdoors pots are exposed to rain and unless you are vigilant your pots could end up sitting in water, suffocating the roots.
     
  3. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks, Eric. These pots are on my daughter's balcony which I am caring for her, and the balcony is recessed with a glass protective fence and railing, so they won't collect rain. And, I AM trying to prevent the overflow from hitting the balcony floor, although there is a drain there -- the fertilizers might stain the floor of the balcony, etc... perhaps just misting the new filler plantings would be the way to go, until they get established... the soil at the bottom of the pots is not what I would call absorbent, while the upper layers are, so the pot isn't really re-absorbing the water from the bottom when drying out, I don't think. Just wondering what pot gardeners do with this situation... I have even contemplated getting a tiny pump to plug in and use now and then, to get out the excess water and get it into a nearby bucket... the pots are quite large.
     
  4. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    To add to what Eric said, I have never seen a plant, apart from water loving bog-type plants, that do better with saucers than without. Good drainage is the key to keeping shrubs as container plants in the long term, and you cannot have good drainage if your shrub is sitting in a dish of water.

    In a situation such as described, where the saucers are needed to protect the substrate from water damage, you could use an old towel to soak up the excess from the trays, and discard or reuse the water as you see fit. Kind of like your tiny pump idea, but more old school ;-).
     
  5. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Thank you, maf, that's a great idea and actually had occurred to me -- whether the young pair in question would take the time to do that I don't know, but I think the son-in-law would! He's the looker-afterer, while the daughter is the 16-hr-a-day financial whiz-kid, that's why I'm doing this! We could dispense with the saucers maybe, at risk of having overflows to someone else's balcony below as the drain doesn't catch everything very well. Or, bigger saucers with pot-feet on the pots... I'll see how it goes!
     
  6. Pieter

    Pieter Active Member 10 Years

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    You can improve the drainage by adding a couple of wicks and draping those over the saucers to allow the wicks to drain the water to the balcony drain. If there is water remaining in the saucer after 3 days the soil mix is not draining well enough IMHO, the perched water table is too high and the roots will not be receiving enough air for proper development.
     
  7. thanrose

    thanrose Active Member 10 Years

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    Also Janet, you could use a turkey baster sort of squeeze bulb siphon to suck up the drained water and reuse elsewhere or simply put it in a jar for later use. Don't reuse it if there are a lot of accumulated salts in your planters though.

    For keeping the small filler plants hydrated, you are on the right track with misting, I think.
     

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