Committing Tree-icide: Water & Mulch

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(Don’t miss last month’s post about proper tree planting!)

Once we have the new tree in the ground, we want to do our best to help it not only survive but thrive. Knowing how dry our climate is, it’s natural to focus on providing enough water for the tree to become established.

A newly planted tree needs to be watered where its roots are. Those roots will be close to the trunk, which is why the landscapers set up their drip emitters to irrigate that area.

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How to Grow a Houseplant: Water & Food

Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series on How to Grow a Houseplant. Part 1 covered light & temperature requirements, Part 3 will discuss containers and repotting.

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Water
The biggest problem most people have with growing container plants is watering. Ideally, the potting soil for your plant should have equal amounts of air and water trapped between its particles. It should be moist but not soggy.

Most people realize that letting plants dry out is a bad idea (unless you’re growing cactus). However, too much water can also cause wilting. Frequently, a novice gardener will interpret the limp leaves to mean the plant is thirsty, and water more. This nearly always proves fatal. What has actually happened is that the roots have suffocated from a lack of air. Dead roots can’t absorb water, so the plant wilts. More houseplants die from overwatering than from drought. Always check the soil first.

You can stick your finger into the potting mix, or buy a simple water meter that indicates how wet your plant is. Or, if it isn’t too big and heavy, you can simply lift the pot. A well-watered pot is heavy. If your plant feels like a light-weight, it’s time to water.

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Starting Seeds: Soil and Water

Do not start your indoor seedlings in soil.

Does that surprise you? Yet, even good garden loam is not the best choice for growing transplants.

For one thing, soil is more than just dirt. It is full of micro-organisms such as nematodes, bacteria, and fungi. Out in the garden, they keep one another in check. Indoors, it’s another story. One of the most common causes of seedling failure, “damping off” is a disease causes by a fungus. Once infected, it is fatal to the baby plants. The only hope is prevention.

You do have the option of sterilizing your garden soil. You can bake it at about 250º F for several hours. That will kill all those nasty diseases. It will also create a stench in your home. If you want to stay on good terms with your housemates, this is not the best way to go.

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