sktsfbay
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Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

Hi,

I am very new to gardening, I bought my first plants (tomato, basil, and pepper) past weekend.

I bought Miracle Gro potting soil. And I bought these pots,
https://www.lowes.com/pd_471521-77374-46 ... Id=4487302.

The plants are in my balcony and it gets about 5 hours of sun.

I have couple of questions.

1. How often should I water the plants? I have been watering the plants in the morning. But I see the soil is always wet. Don't know if I should water once in two days. The pots have 'self-watering disks'. Still, I made two holes in the bottom to let the excess water drain.

2. Miracle Gro says no fertilizer is needed for 6-8 weeks. What should I do after that? I am thinking of buying liquid kelp-based fertilizer. Is that a good idea?

Thanks.

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skiingjeff
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

What type of Miracle Gro potting mix did you use? Starter, Regular, or Moisture control? It sounds like your watering too much. You don't want the plants to be wet all the time. I use a moisture meter to check any pots I'm using and don't water until they are either not reading any moisture or very low in moisture. That way they are moist but not wet. :)

imafan26
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

I hate self watering pots. They are self killing for me. If you are using them they are easy to over water. Stick your finger in the soil. If it is moist a couple of inches down, don't water yet. If you are using moisture control Miracle grow potting soil, then you really need to be careful. On a balcony 5 hours of sun isn't very much. Is your balcony railing open or solid. If it is solid air will not circulate all that well and the pots will take longer to dry.

If you use self watering containers which is actually not a bad choice for a balcony, it is better to use one with a reservoir where you can see the water level. There should be an air gap between the reservoir and the soil so the roots can breathe. You should only have to fill the reservoir when the level has dropped it does not need to be full all of the time.

The pots you bought are only 5 inch pots, they will be too small for the tomato and pepper but the basil may do o.k in it. Although I prefer my basil in gallon pots.

You can buy an earthbox, but you can get it cheaper if you make your own. There are how many how to's available on line. A five gallon bucket works for a small tomato and the pepper. If you want a indeterminate tomato or grow lettuce or herbs the 18 gallon rubbermaid tote is more versatile.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9UQCDcST0Q
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sktsfbay
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

What type of Miracle Gro potting mix did you use?
I think regular...? It doesn't say anything on the front of the bag, it just says Miracle Gro potting mix.

Is your balcony railing open or solid?
It is open.

The pots you bought are only 5 inch pots
I bought the same kind, but bigger size pots for pepper and tomato.

I checked this morning, the soil was soaking wet (I didn't have to poke couple of inches). I didn't water the plants this morning. Should I just wait for another day or two, till the moisture level goes down? Is there anything else I can do now to remove the excess water? Add something to the pot that absorbs the water?

Thanks.

pow wow
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

I wouldn't water until the top of the soil is dry. When i water I make sure the water runs out the bottom. That prevents salt build up. I stay away from miracle grow fertilizer. Plant prod fertilizer is my choice. I fertilize my potted plants once a week with a 20-20-20. I TBS of fertilizer mixed with water in a 4litre milk jug. My tomatoes I fertilize with the plant prod tom fertilizer maybe twice a week. Anyways, that's what works for me.

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skiingjeff
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

If the Miracle Gro was the moisture kind or a starting mix it would say it on the bag, so you have regular Miracle Gro potting mix. There is really nothing wrong with the potting mix you are using. :)

As long as the plants are wet, do not water more. Wait for them to dry out a couple inches down before watering again.

As far as fertilizer, there are several kinds available both organic and not so organic on the market that will do just fine for your plants when they need it. It is really a matter of choice. As Imafan mentioned, watch to ensure your plants have plenty of root space as they will not grow well if pot bound. If necessary, you can up-pot them as they need the space.

Good luck! :)

sktsfbay
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

watch to ensure your plants have plenty of root space
Will I be able to see it visually? Or do I poke into the pot?

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skiingjeff
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

If the pots have holes in the bottom, you'll see the roots poking out of the hole. If not, it is harder to tell but the plant may look droopy or get yellow and then the only way to tell is to take the plant out and look at the roots. I don't know of any better way if the pots do not have drain holes.

Maybe some of the other folks on the forum have more experience with pots without drain holes???

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pinksand
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

I attempted to grow a tomato plant in a large plastic pot with terrible drainage last year but with torrential rains and poor drainage the plant started wilting. It declined very quickly and :( so definitely keep an eye on the plants themselves since they'll tell you whether or not they're happy with the soil conditions.

I never water on a schedule, I just check all my pots daily and learn which need more attention than others. For example, my railing planter on the far right gets more sun and dries out the quickest. Watering needs may also change as the season progresses and the roots take up more space in the pot. July heat might mean having to water twice a day. The finger test is your best bet. If the soil is pretty moist up to the surface I let it be and check again tomorrow.
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ElizabethB
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

My immediate reaction is that your pots are much too small. You need a 5 gallon bucket for each tomato and pepper plant. You basil also needs a larger pot. You may be able to get away with a 1 gallon for the basil but 2 would be better.

I hate self watering pots. I don't even use pot saucers. If the pot has a saucer I take it off. I frequently drill extra drain holes in the bottom of a pot. Most fast food joints buy their sliced pickles in 5 gallon buckets. If you ask around - always speak to the manager or owner - you may get them for free or for a buck or two. Wash put the bucket and drill holes in the bottom. If you don't like the look of the buckets - spray paint.

You are over watering. Wet soil will kill your plants in a hurry.

With pots a slow release fertilizer works well. It does not take much and you don't have to worry about over feeding. Too much of good thing is not always a good thing. Most new gardeners lose plants not from neglect but from loving them to death.

When you shop for fertilizer read the label. You will see NPK with a set of numbers. These are some basics without getting into the science. If the first number is high you will push lots of green, leafy growth and sacrifice flowers and fruit. Look for a plant food that is a balance- all three numbers are the same or one with the second number higher than the other 2.

Regardless of the type of fertilizer you opt for apply only according to the label directions. Others may disagree but I suggest that you avoid plant food spikes. When I worked in the nursery at Lowe's customers would bring in dead and dying plants and want to know what they did wrong. Over fertilizing and over watering were the most common reasons - death by love. Plant food spikes were a major culprit.

Much larger pots
Less water
Go easy on the feeding

Good luck
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

sktsfbay
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

It's been four days since I watered 2 of the 3 plants. The soil is soaking wet.

One thing I did differently when planting was the amount of soil I added for each plant. I didn't know how much soil to add or how firm it should be. I started with tomato, I let the soil be loose and not very firm. For pepper I added bit more soil and made it bit more firm (relatively speaking, since its in a smaller container). Basil is the firmest of the three, though I can still poke into the soil easily.

And it's the basil and pepper plants that are still wet, last I watered was on Monday. Should I take the plants out, add new soil, keep it loose this time? Or wait few more days? Typically, how long does the plant last before it starts to decay if there is too much water?

Thanks.

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ElizabethB
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Re: Newbie questions on watering and fertilizer

Get rid of the saucers or whatever they are on the bottom of your pots. Transplant to LARGE containers with good drainage. Use a mixture of potting soil compost would be better), course horticultural vermiculite and peat. 1/1/1. Your plants are drowning. :eek:
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

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