Group Garden

Hello, little seedlings! It's time for this week's Group Garden! Here's your place to forget about the weather outside for a bit, enjoy the serenity of looking at beautiful greens, and work on your garden with the help of others. Lets get started!

This weeks focus: water! Aside from sunlight and soil, water is pretty much the most basic need for any plant life. Problem is, every plant has a different requirement which makes the whole idea of watering tricky and sometimes daunting. One thing to remember when watering your plants is that it is much more beneficial to give your plants a few long drinks of water than it is giving them consistent sips. When you're only giving plants a light passing over every day, the water only goes down into the soil from the surface a few inches instead of reaching the bottom of the roots where they will need it most.

The best time of days to water your plants are in the morning or afternoon. Watering at night is advised against because mold and fungus thrive on dark wet areas. One easy way to remember to water is to set it as part of your morning routine once a week. For example, I remember to check/water my succulents every Friday morning while feeding my dog. Checking seedlings is a daily habit, done right before I put on my coat and head to work.

To check if your plants need water, you need nothing more than the tip of your finger to stick in the soil. If you stick your finger in about half an inch deep and pull it out completely dry, it's time to start watering. If there's still a bit of moisture, soil will cling to your fingertip and the soil will feel a bit spongy.

How often you water your plants will need to be determined by a number of factors; plants that get high sun exposure, have thinner or larger leaves, and are currently flowering will often need more consistent watering. There's a fine line between keeping your plants well watered and leaving them drowning, so be sure your plants are in well draining containers and leave a layer of rocks between the bottom of the pot and the bottom of the dish. This will also aid in keeping the air around the plant humid but well ventilated to avoid mold.

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Some plants, such as succulents, will often need a drying out period in between waterings, so they can be ignored for a couple of weeks at a time. These plants are often sold as indestructible plants and will usually have a more waxy appearance to either the leaves or flowers. One way to help you remember which ones need the most and least watering is to place your plants near the window from most to least thirsty.

If you are watering mostly garden vegetables, the Farmer's Almanac has a chart which tells you how much water the most common plants will need per week and when following this is the most critical. The vegetables are listed as a gallon per 5' row, so for example if the plant asks for 1 gallon per week, you can pare it down to about 3 cups per 12 inch pot.

If all of this seems like a lot of work, there are ways to automate the system and keep your plants hassle free.

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One of the easiest self automating methods is the wine bottle, which some of you may have left over from previous Group Drinks. This method works best with plants that need consistent watering, such as tomatoes, and will keep the soil moist without much effort. Simply give your plants a good soak, fill the wine bottle to the top, and stick it in the soil. Done! The wine bottle will release water as the pressure loosens from soil drying, replacing it with just the right amount of water.

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If you're doing this in a smaller pot, the same method can be used with those cute mini airplane sized bottles of booze. A win for you and a win for plants!

Another method I have used in the past is the wicking method, which is quite simple and foolproof, though I don't recommend using this method outdoors since it leaves standing water around, and mosquito season is bad enough as it is.

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This method can also be done by cutting old water bottles in half, poking a hole through the cap to thread a piece of yarn, and filling the bottom half with water while placing your plants in the top half. This leaves the standing water more contained and less likely to attract bugs.

If you really can't keep an eye on your plants and you need it to tell you that it's thirsty, a Singing Goldfinch will be a safer bet. When water levels are low, it will start singing and call out to you for a good soak. No need to worry about it singing overnight, it also senses light for you.

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Lifehacker has a number of articles on how to automate your watering system, using high tech systems and apps, but to be honest I'm quite lazy and typically broke after buying everything I need to garden.

Now on to our plant of the week: the soilless water bathing tillandsia!

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This gorgeous looking species as among the easiest to take care of, as the most it needs is air, some light, and the occasional bath. Native to warm southern climates, these plants tend to hang out in the tops of trees in places such as Florida, where they are partially shaded by branches and are the first to enjoy rainwater. As a house plant, they live off of the dust particles in the air through the leaves, so they can be placed almost anywhere.

To water a tillandsia, all it needs is to be left in a little bath in a cup or a sink once or twice a week. It also makes a great bathroom plant, as it can live off of shower steam and the occasional water bottle spritzing. They thrive in warm temperatures, so this is not an outdoor plant in cold climates. Once the mother plant turns reddish pink and has small blooms, it's reached the end of its lifecycle. But fear not, as the mother plant dies it'll propagate plant babies (or pups) to take over, usually one or two per plant.

How are your gardens coming along? Do you have any clever watering tricks to help out your other Group Gardeners?

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*Personal note: sorry this is out a little late. As many of your know from my previous posts this week, I've had a very rough and stressful couple of days. I think I slept about 12 hours today to reset myself. So I leave you with this piece of advice: don't leave your boyfriend alone with your chalkboard painted plant bench. This is bound to happen: