Test plant soil for moisture before watering during winter

December tends to be a very busy month, which means some things, like indoor plants, can get neglected. The most common problem is in the amount of water a plant receives.

December tends to be a very busy month, which means some things, like indoor plants, can get neglected. The most common problem is in the amount of water a plant receives.

Give the plant too little water and it will wilt. The same can be said if the plant receives too much water. More plants die from being overwatered than under watered.

A simple solution to watering problems is to test the soil before watering the plant. This does not mean looking at the soil or touching the top.

It means sticking a finger or moisture monitor into the soil at a depth greater than 1 inch (2.5 cm) and testing for moisture.

Pots that contain soil that is moist to the touch should not be watered. If in doubt about how wet the soil is, remove a small portion of soil, and roll it between fingers and thumb. Wet or moist soil will stick together while dry soil will flake.

Moisture meters are an alternative to the touch system. Be sure to read the instructions and follow them to get correct readings.

In dry soil, the few water particles that are available are bound to soil particles and not available to plant roots.

Once the plant has used up its store of moisture, the plant cells become soft, the stems sag and leaves wilt.

Soil that contains too much water contains too little oxygen, which is needed for the roots to absorb moisture. As a result, plant cells become soft, the stems sag and leaves wilt.

Plants that are overwatered often die but it is possible to save the plant by getting oxygen into the soil. Start by draining excess water from the pot and saucer. Then repot the plant if possible.

Repotting the plant using dry soil will help move excess moisture away from the roots. Repotting can be as simple as placing the root ball intact into a larger pot with dry soil.

It can also involve removing excess wet soil from the rootball and replacing it with dry soil. The goal for both of these methods is to wick the wet soil away from the roots, allowing for air pockets to form between soil particles.

Once the repotting is completed, place the plant in a cool area where it will not be in direct sunlight or heat, thus slowing down the transpiration rate until the soil is drier and has room for air particles.

Take the following into consideration when watering plants: the size of plant compared to the pot, type of soil and the time of year.

Pots that are filled with roots use more moisture and there is rarely an excess amount of moisture. Pots with few roots cannot absorb all the moisture the soil can hold and once the soil becomes saturated, it is hard to dry it out.

Soil that is loose with large pores drains quickly after watering and is less likely to become waterlogged than heavy soils with small air pockets.

During the winter months when there are fewer hours of daylight, plants become dormant.

They live but do not put out many if any new growth.

Transpiration is at a minimum, as is water intake.

Plants make great additions to the home and office.

Take time to check the soil carefully before watering the plant.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or your_garden@hotmail.com

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