Overwatering is the most common mistake beginners make in container gardening. Since we do not have the luxury of a sprawling lawn, proper and timely watering is the trickiest part of sustaining a healthy container garden. We need to be extra careful and consider many factors like the size and composition of the pots, the type of soil and plants, the season, time of day and so on. Very often, we enthusiastically water our plants but do not ensure appropriate drainage. This can lead to many problems:
Root Rot: If we water our plants too frequently, the middle and bottom layers of the soil will remain damp, although the top soil looks dry. If there aren’t enough drainage holes, this water will accumulate over time and spoil the roots. You will notice that the leaves will turn yellow, then fall off and the stems will become limp. Once the roots start decaying, the plant will soon die.
Try saving it by gently taking out the plant from the soil, washing the roots under running water, cutting off the rotten parts of the roots and the yellow leaves, and re-pot it in fresh soil.
Fungus: Fungus grows and thrives in damp conditions. Overwatering and inadequate drainage, along with poor air circulation, keep the soil constantly wet. If there are spores and insect eggs already in the soil, this will lead to mushrooms and fungus gnats. Most mushrooms do not harm plants, but fungus gnats can feed on tender roots, and powdery mildew can destroy the leaves.
You can treat the plant by removing the affected parts and spraying it with a fungicide or a solution made by mixing 1 tbsp baking soda + 1 tsp mild liquid soap + 1 gallon water.
Nutrients/Fertilizers Flush: Regular overwatering can wash away natural soil nutrients, minerals and fertilizers, which are essential for keeping plants strong and disease-free. It also displaces oxygen in the soil and causes the roots to grow in the top layer only. This makes the plant weak and leads to leaf drop and root rot.
Do the foolproof finger test to avoid overwatering: Insert a finger into the soil up to your knuckle. If it feels damp and the soil looks dark, do not water, even if the top soil feels dry and looks light in color.
Here are a few things I keep in mind to ensure that I do not overwater my plants:
Gardening requires time, patience and care. But it is also very relaxing, and you develop a connection with your plants as they germinate and develop. Identifying and avoiding overwatering has been the biggest challenge I have faced in container gardening. I hope you find these tips useful and grow beautiful, healthy plants.