Watering The Houseplants – Good PracticesWatering The Houseplants-Good Practices
Watering the houseplants is quite different from watering the garden. Many of the issues plaguing keeping the yard irrigated are functional non-issues for houseplants, while a new host of problems (soil degradation, under-potting) pops up almost as swiftly. In general watering houseplants makes the job smaller but not any faster as you need to be more detail-oriented.
The biggest issue has to do with watering containers instead of the soil. In a garden bed, it is very hard to overwater since excess water will simply drain lower into the soil as time goes on. The only time you can truly overwater the dirt is when there’s an impermeable layer in the soil that traps the water, or the water level is already so high it’s easy to top it off to cover the surface.
While these two issues can easily happen in the right areas, in general overwatering the yard has no lasting issues at all, and may even improve plants given that rarer, deeper waterings encourage root growth. Plants in containers are far more vulnerable to overwatering since the “impermeable layer” is right there in the form of the pot holding your plant.
This means that houseplants are a balancing act between letting it get too dry and letting it stay soaking until it rots. This is exacerbated by houseplants having much broader watering needs than most garden plants, as desert succulents and tropical vines mix freely in the home environment.
Your best tool in this challenge is pot choice and soil choice. This has been mentioned before, but pots are generally plastic glazed clay or unglazed clay. Each of these is more permeable to water than the previous, so the same plant and soil in a plastic pot will stay wet for longer than in a clay pot.
Similarly, organic material (like peat moss) will hold water longer than stone or sand. Thus, you can control the amount of water a pot holds by cutting in sand or compost as needed. The number of drainage holes in the bottom of the pot also has an effect, but it can be difficult to size them correctly such that water but no soil exits without making them so small they plug up.
Placing a layer of gravel at the bottom of the pot can help in this regard. Since each plant will have different ideal wetness, it can be hard to make any blanket recommendations on how much to water.
How each plant is watered at least becomes a non-issue. Unless you have dozens or hundreds of houseplants, hand watering will easily care for them all. If you do have enough plants to make hand watering unwieldy, you can simply place sets of plants in the shower for a gentle, thorough wash and watering from time to time.
Ecologically, it becomes harder to recycle water for use with houseplants, though instead of tossing used aquarium water down the sink this can work as free water and fertilizer both. Keep in mind that plants grown in a low-tech hydroponic system (such as a vase of water) don’t appreciate fertilizers of any kind in their water. Similarly, when watering house plants, make sure to provide enough water that some drains through the bottom. This will prevent various salts and minerals from building up in the soil over time.
One issue that houseplants have to deal with unique to them is humidity. Many houseplants, being from the tropics, do best when given a higher relative humidity. One way of providing this is by using a spray bottle mister to provide a water and elegantly direct approach that you can accidentally overdo. Be careful when spraying down plants to have a light touch. Alternately, you can place humidity-hungry plants on a shallow tray of rocks and water to let ambient humidity from evaporation do the job.
This is a much lower-maintenance approach that sometimes isn’t enough. Depending on your houseplants either approach may be better, but an excellent compromise position is just to cluster your houseplants together somewhat. Plants indoors provide humidity as they transpire, so you can harness all that humidity floating around for the benefits of other plants easily. The key is the same as always: a little planning before ensures success with whatever you plant.
Let us look first, at just “how” to water an indoor plant.
When watering potted plants and we are talking about only once a week, too, unless your house is super hot, it is best to soak the pot. By this I mean, immerse the entire pot in a bucket and begin filling it with water, until the water comes up to just beneath the top of the pot.
Leave it there until the air stops bubbling from the soil, about 20/30 minutes, then top up the water again and leave it for another 20 mins.
Then remove the pot and allow it to drain, just until water stops actually flowing from it. This extra care allows the soil to soak up lots of water, giving the plant some moisture reserves that it can pull on as needs must.
This method relies on the soil in the pot being potting mix, to begin with. If you are using any old soil you dug up out of the garden, probably you will create problems. Potting mix, specifically for pot plants, is an open medium designed to facilitate natural drainage of the pot.
Soil from your backyard may very well have a high percentage of clay in it, which is only going to make matters worse. If your pot is really heavy comparative to the plant that is growing in it, and the material of the pot itself, then you may be in need of a bit of repotting. If the pot is relatively light, then more like as not, it has a potting mix in it.
How do you know if your plant needs water, or not?
When you go to water your plants, keep in mind that, just because a pot looks dry can be a bit deceiving, and does not necessarily mean that it needs watering. Dig your finger into the soil of the pot, about an inch and a half. The soil should be a darker color, soft, and feel DAMP – not wet.
If this is the case, leave it for a day or so, if it feels too dry, obviously, it needs water. And if, when you pick up the pot, you almost throw it over your shoulder, because it is SO light, then yes, give it a drink.
If the soil is WET, you are probably over-watering. First check that it is not sitting in water, like a full saucer, remove it and drain. It used to be quite common practice, many decades ago, to have a pot sitting in a water-filled saucer – all the time. This is bad practice.
Plants actually take oxygen up through their roots, and if the plant is sitting in water all the time, it is probably going to drown, or at the very least, the roots will start to rot and this can and often do, just continue to the detriment of the plant.
Some people start to panic as soon as a plant droops a bit, thinking the worst. Well do not panic, plants are after all incredibly resilient. A drooping or wilting plant is not necessarily in need of water. The reason could be environmental, as in the immediate environment.
If the day is unseasonably warm; maybe the heat inside has been turned up; possibly the plant is too close to a window and getting too much direct sun – window glass can have the same effect as a magnifying glass; all can cause house plants to look a little sad.
If upon checking the soil for moisture content, it is indeed dry, well o.k. water it. But, if you can find no obvious reason for the wilting – first remedy the previously mentioned environmental reasons if they exist.
Then, leave it alone for a day. If the plant was too hot, or dry, it will rectify itself within hours. Too wet, or cold, should see recovery within days.
Most indoor plants will appreciate being sprayed with a fine mist of water once in a while. It makes them look fresher, too.
So, as we can see, there is a little more to it than just throwing a bit of water around, when watering your indoor plants.
How To Remove Water Stains From Hardwood Floors
Overzealous watering of plants, or spills that happen every day can cause damage to hardwood floors. Unfortunately, to remove water stains from hardwood floors is not a simple matter of wiping over with a cleaning agent. If you take care of liquids, you will never have to face this problem but accidents do happen and it is almost inevitable that you will have to remove water stains from hardwood floors at least every few years.
The first step in removing water stains from hardwood floors is to take some bare wood of the same species used in the flooring and do some test-matching of different stain colors in order to find the perfect one to use.
If you buy two or three cans of stain that resemble the floor color, you will be able to mix proportionately until you achieve the desired effect. It is important to gauge the appropriateness of the match when the stain is wet as it will more closely resemble the finished look once the polyurethane has been added. Remember only to mix oil-based or water-based stains together.
Once you achieve the adequate color matching, you will need to sand the floor with a vibrating sander to remove the stain in the first place. Medium sandpaper is adequate for the first treatment and it can be followed with a finer grade to finish with. This is the most effective way to remove water stains from hardwood floors because the liquid will have penetrated the top surface.
Vacuum all the dust away and then, if an oil-based stain is involved, use a cloth moistened with mineral spirits to wipe over. For latex stains, use a water moistened cloth. Stain the sanded patch using the stain you determined by conducting the test earlier on the piece of wood.
Do not leave the floor unprotected for any length of time because once you remove water stains from hardwood floors, the wood is vulnerable to further damage until the coating is re-applied.
One of the best preventative measures you can take to prevent having to remove water stains from hardwood floors is to use plant saucers under pots, remembering, of course, to do the same with your natural Christmas tree. Leaving wet towels or clothes lying around is another mistake. Water stains can be avoided if thought is given to the way in which rooms are used.
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