A novice gardener needs basic help :(

ryokosseiJune 4, 2008

Hello! My name is Courtney, and I just recently began to garden, in an attempt to make my ugly and desolage porch look a little nicer. I live in an apartment complex, so everything is done in pots, and right now I have 6 total - one pot is all pre-grown flowers, so I'm not as concerned about them, but three of the others have new seeds in them. One in particular I'm worried about, I planted some annuals and they pushed up through the soil in a few days, but now the larger plants are getting crunchy around the edges, and many of them are dying... I'm not really sure why, I water them several times a day (once in the morning, once at night and sometimes once after I get back from class), but I might not be watering them enough. I live in a fairly dry place, and the sun has been out a lot, so they might be drying out too quickly. HOWEVER, there is also the possibility that I'm just watering them too much and they're dying. I think over watering might be the problem with another plant that I have as well....

I guess really what I was hoping to get help with is this: how can I tell if I'm over- and/or underwatering plants? What are the signs, etc.

Also, I got some dealit that is supposed to tell me the amount of water in a plants soil, but I'm not sure if I can trust it...are those things worth it? What are good brands, etc. I really am VERY new at this.

and Finally, when it gets cold, windy, or super rainy out I bring my plants in, but my apartment isn't blessed with air conditioning (c'est la vive de une college student, non?), so it can be hot some times. I understand that plants are supposed live outside and all, but I feel the need to bring them in. Am I doing the right thing, or might this be contributing to their problems?

I'm sorry to have so many questions, but I can't find the answers any where else, and I don't want my plants to die!

Thank you, ahead of time, for anyone who helps me. I have classes today, so it will be later in the day before I can check back and thank ya'll properly, but I promise I will return!


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
naturegirl_2007 5B SW Michigan(5B SW Michigan)

You don't really need a meter to check the moisture in your soil. Push your finger down in the soil to see if it is moist down an inch or two. If it is then you don't need to water. If it is really soggy and wet instead of only moist, you have too much water which is usually a result of blocked or missing drain holes or poor potting mix. If it is dry it is past time to water. If you prefer to use a meter, you can check it against your "calibrated" finger and see what reading indicates water is needed. Guess it saves a dirty finger, but I like the hands on method myself. Small pots with several plants may need water a few times a day. Watch the plants and you can begin to see if they are wilting slightly. If they are it is just a bit past time to add water. If the pots have the correct potting mix and drain well you can add alot of water without worrying. The excess will drain out the holes. The planters should have potting MIX, not a bagged topsoil or soil dug up from the yard. The potting mix drains well and has air spaces that the roots need. Many of the mixes contain lots of peat and maybe some vermiculite or perlite. Most garden centers and even Target and Walmart carry suitable mixes. Miracle Gro Potting Mix is readily available but many others are as good or better.

Do your pots have drain holes? If excess water cannot drain out your plants will suffer. If the holes are only on the bottom and your plants set on a flat surface they may not drain well either. If you can set them on an unueven surface or put a few sticks or stones under them, it will leave the holes open to drain.

How many plants are in the pot you seeded? If the plants are too crowded they may use water so quickly that you can not keep them wet enough. Did the soil get very dry? Did the plants get real droppy? That could easily turn them dry and crispy. Sometimes they are done for then. Other times the center stem is okay and may regrow leaves from the leaf nodes.

How big are your pots? Even if you water several times a day, small pots may not work well. I like to have everything in pots that are at least 10 inches across. And larger ones are even better.

Your plants need light to grow, but they can come inside for awhile during heavy rain, high winds, and low temps (below 45 F.) Sometimes mine would be better inside but I'm to lazy to bring them all in :) If you can stand the heat inside your place with no AC, then your plants should be okay also. However, if you keep them in alot they will adjust to the conditions there and may get sun or wind burn when put back outside. If they are outside most of the time they get tougher and will be stronger plants.

Container plants need to be fertilized. Follow label directions and don't overdo it. Too much fertilizer is worse than too little. Again, most garden centers carry a fertilizer for houseplants. Some are powders that you mix up, mine is 1/2 teas. per gallon of water. Some are spikes you stick in the pot and they fertilize for several weeks or months.

What kind of plants do you have? Some do best in full sun and love the heat. Others do better in shade and don't handle high temps as well. You may need to experiment a bit to find the right ones for your area.

I hope your plants are doing well. Flowers will improve the looks of most any home. Ask around and you may find another plant lover in the area who can give you advice for the local weather conditions. Otherwise keep trying. You can learn alot by watching the plants closely and seeing how they respond to various conditions. You may lose a few, but you will do better the next time.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 1:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the help, I'll answer your questions in the order you asked them, but I think I got most of what I needed from your first post!!

1) Yes, they do have drain holes, and they are only on the bottom, but I have a little room under the pot so that they can drain well - ^-^ my ever astute college mind was sharp enough to catch that little problem.

The "pot" I'm most worried about is has quite a few plants, but it's also fairly big - it's a basked about 6 x 14 inches, and the plants are spread out fairly well. There are about 4 in the center, and little row of snap dragons on either side. I also have 2 6" pots that have fox glove and columbines in them, but as i just planted those I don't expect any flowers for quite a long while.

I have the two aforementioned 6" pots, three 8" pots (which I just re-potted pre-grown plants in...because I'm impatient), and the 6" x 14" basket - it has really bad drainage, but I'm planning on giving it a little more tomorrow morning (It's lined with plastic, which I knew would be a problem when I bought it...)

The plants that I'm most worried about are Zinnias and Columbine, but around this time next year I won't be surprised if I'm wondering what happened to my foxglove and columbines... I also have 2 large baskets given to me as gifts by my fiance's mom - both of them with Gardenias (one with some other wee flower and grass) that she gave me the duty of "nursing back to health." They were in pretty awful shape when she gave them to me (rescued from the local grocery store), but she figured that if I can rehabilitate ferrets I should be able to handle plants - I think she underestimated my brown thumb (and the fact that it's a lot easier to see if an animal is unhappy...)

Thank you for the advice, and words of encouragement! I hope I can help the plants grow big and strong, but those who survived my initial attack seem to be doing really well now!


    Bookmark   June 14, 2008 at 10:46PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Avacado Seeds
I am trying to grow an avacado plant in a glass of...
Daniel Fry - 10 b
Chemically treated lawn OK for kids play?
My garden was and is lush green all thru the fall and...
HELP. How do I fix this?
Hello fellow gardeners. I'm not a gardener, I'm a kid...
seeds for the late starter
Hi Everyone, It has been so long since I have posted...
Help with school project
I work in 9 different schools running Girl Scout troops...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™