Killing with kindness? Overwatering

#1

Hi all. I think I may be overwatering my plants. How much is too much? And how do I tell?

I have tomatoes (cherry in hanging basket and 2 normal plants), cucumber, courgettes, strawberries and sweet peppers. They’re all pretty small still, apart from one tomato plant which is a MONSTER.

#2

Photos? :wink: Why do you think you may be over-watering them? Do they look sad?

Are the pots well drained? If so, you probably aren’t over-watering them. Some plants like to dry out - either completely or nearly - between waterings, especially if it’s a bit cold where they are. (My cucumber plants in my greenhouse at the moment, for example.) Plants in hanging baskets are usually difficult to water enough, let alone too much. Strawberries love water. But it depends on the soil makeup and the pot as well.

Sorry not to be able to give a definitive answer - a photo or two of the plants in question would help. :slight_smile:

#3

I’m worried I’m overwatering mine too. Or under watering! Not sure! Some of the leaves on my tomato plant have gone pale and limp. Will take a pic in the morning.

#4

Looks like sunburn to me.
Could this be?
A lot of sun after a couple of dreary days? Or a sudden change of location - from shadow into direct sunlight?

btw. older leaves that go yellow is perfectly normal for plants - especially tomatoes and especially older ones.

#5

Yes I think it could be that - we had a few very warm days!

#6

It is sometimes hard to tell if plants are being watered too much by looking. Signs include:

  • Lack of growth, particular if weather is warm and conducive to growth.
  • Green moss or algae growing on top of the compost.
  • A very heavy pot (if your pots are small enough, lifting them is a very handy way to test if they need watering, you quickly notice the difference in weight.)
  • Compost that smells a little putrid.

Another thing that may sound blindingly obvious but it took me years to work out is: larger plants need watering a lot more than small plants… So a baby plant in a large pot will usually only need watering every few days, perhaps only once a week. While a large plant in a small pot can often need watering once sometimes even twice a day. So as the season progresses and plants get bigger, you need to water more and more (particularly as it gets warmer, too).

The most reliable way to test if plants need watering is to put your finger a few inches into the soil. It should feel damp like a wrung out flannel, not dry or or soggy wet. Clearly this would be a faff to do with every pot every day - but is a good way to learn how fast your plants are drinking the water. After a while you can use your instinct, but even then, testing with your finger is still a good idea from time to time. I’m still often surprised by pots that are much drier (or wetter) than I expected.

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#7

Thanks Mark that’s really good advice. I had to remove the 2 strawberry plants as they died pretty soon after my last post. The roots were all brown so I’m pretty sure I drowned them. I’ve since replaced with new seedlings and I’m hoping they’ll fare better.

My cucumber and courgette plants are still very small (less than 10 inches tall) so I’m trying not to overwater them but they’re trying to produce fruit already! So odd. This didn’t happen last year. The only thing I’ve done that’s different this year was add some chicken manure to the existing compost before adding some fresh compost on top…

#8

Sometimes this can happen when a plant gets stressed. For example, cucumbers are warmth loving plants and if they’ve been outside on a cold night or two (particularly if they are not accustomed to it) they may have got stressed and decided to flower as early as they could. Or possibly overwatering might stress them.

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