Miniature Gardening 103: The Water
Welcome back to our Miniature Garden Series of tutorials to get you started in this wonderful hobby! If you missed it, Miniature Gardening 101 was about soil, Miniature Gardening 102 is all about indoor vs. outdoor plants. Today we are discussing how to know how much water your miniature garden will need.
Huh? Different Types of Watering?
Water is a big factor to consider when choosing plants for your miniature garden, especially for a miniature garden in a container. Different plants have different watering needs, so plants in the same miniature garden should all tolerate the same water schedule.
Some plants like their root zone to dry out between watering, others like to have a moist root zone at all times. Planting these two types of plants right next to each other in a small container can result in disaster. The following chart will help to familiarize yourself with the terms you will usually find on the plant tag, or in the plant’s description:
Our Water Chart
|Wet||The plant pot sits in shallow dish of water, or is in a container without drainage (called a cache pot), and the soil is kept constantly wet.||African Violets, Miniature Sweet Flag|
|Moist||Pot has a drainage hole, but is watered often to keep up the moisture level of the soil.||Begonias, Baby Tears|
|Damp||Regular water, but let the soil almost dry out in between, like the dampness of wrung-sponge.||Lawson Cypress, English Boxwood|
|Dry||Let the soil dry out completely between watering. This avoids over-watering too.||Succulents, Sedum, Jade, Cacti|
But, How Do I Know When to Water?
The only way to really test a plant’s thirst is to put your finger down at least 1” into the soil to feel the level of
moisture in the soil. There are many types of water meters available that you poke into the soil to get a reading from, but they are not too reliable and tend to register the degree of moisture differently – and it’s also a question of where on the meter they read – at the tip? Along the side of the poker-thingie? I can never figure it out.
Another good indicator is how the soil feels is how it looks. As you become more familiar with your miniature garden, you will be able to actually see the difference between moist soil and dry soil. Dry soil is lighter in color and will eventually pull away from the sides of the pot. Moist soil is deep in color and looks full and rich. Too-wet soil will look very dark and flat, it will start to breed moss and eventually attract bugs.
Water is something that you need to stay on top of. Light can be added or taken away and most soils can be amended to accommodate any plant, but watering isn’t negotiable as far as the plant is concerned.
So, How Do I Decide Which Plants to Use?
Choose the plants that go with your lifestyle for the best results. If you are not home very often and don’t want to dote on your mini garden, go with succulents and plants that like to dry out in between watering. If you are home all the time and love to pamper your miniature garden, choose plants that like to be watered often.
One more thing to consider if you are using pots with drainage holes: how are you going to collect the water as it drains out of the bottom of the pot? If the pot doesn’t come with a saucer, your local garden center has clear, plastic saucers which are very noticeable. If the pot does come with a saucer, be careful of the saucer wicking moisture on your wood surfaces. Again, your local garden center will have a variety of plant coasters to use underneath the saucer to protect the wood. If anyone tells you the a saucer is waterproof because it’s glazed, please don’t believe them, I have the water marks on my tables from years ago to prove it.
Understanding the basics of light, soil and water requirements will help you make the right choice when selecting plants for your miniature garden design. Asking the questions, “Where is the garden going to be placed and how am I going to maintain it?” and it will narrow down your plant choices and direct you to the plants that will work for you. Designing your miniature gardening with plant care needs in mind will make tending your mini garden rewarding for you, and keep your plants happy and healthy.
‘Miniature Gardening 104: How to Find the Plants ‘ is next!
In case you missed it: Miniature Gardening 102: Indoor vs. Outdoor Plants is here.