Growing Vegetables/Moisture meters

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Question
I'm a first year beginner & am growing some veggies & herbs in containers. The temps have been very hot so I have watered everyday until I see the water flowing out the bottom. Now that the nights are getting cooler I know I must water less but am finding it difficult to determine how much to water.

I think I need to get a meter but there are so many to choose from I need some advice. I see there are meters with probes that I can take from pot to pot to measure it's moisture need but I'm concerned about disturbing the roots especially on the smaller plants. Should I be worried? And if the meter only goes down 8 or so inches, that won't tell me how wet the bottom of the container is.

I use either 1, 3 & 5 gal containers from the grocery store.
I'll need an extensive list for each type of plant I am growing right? I have celery, spinach, cantaloupe, beets, tomatoes, peppers, sunflowers, aloe vera, herbs & begonias. So which product is best for my needs? Thank you for any help you may give me.

Answer
Tina, the general rule of thumb is that you should only water when the top three inches of soil is dry. You are using the correct procedure by watering deeply until the water seeps from the drainage hole. Shallow watering causes the roots to reach for the surface rather than down, which results in poor growth and spindly plants. On the other hand, too much watering will deplete the soil of nutrients, which will also deter good growth and production.

I always recommend planting in a potting soil that has perlite and vermiculite to hold in the moisture and reduce the need to water. I use my finger to test the top few inches for moisture. If the top three inches are dry, I water. Otherwise, I wait.

If you feel more confident with a meter, most garden centers sell several brands. As long as the probe is four inches, it will work fine. Don't worry about disturbing the roots. Just make sure you insert it a few inches away from the base of the stem. Also, the probe only needs to penetrate the top 3-4 inches. You do not need to test the soil at the bottom since it's the top you need to be concerned with.

I hope this answered your question. Good luck, and enjoy the weekend.

Regards,

Mike

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Mike Mascio

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I have been an avid gardener since 1985 and an AllExpert volunteer since 1998. I specialize in soil preparation, seed starting and plant propagation, flowers, vegetables, and general landscaping. I am a strong advocate of the square foot method of gardening and the use of organic controls for pests and diseases.

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