how to watering and feeding indoor edibles, Healthy plants produce the best crops, so it pays to water and feeds them well. To do this effectively, you need to give the plants just the right amount of each. To ensure your crops thrive indoors, follow these tips to provide them with the perfect levels of food and water.
Watering know-how All crops need the right amount of moisture to feed their roots to produce a good crop of leaves, fruits, or flowers. The trick to growing indoor crops successfully is to supply them with plenty of water while avoiding soggy soil, which may cause stems to rot and encourage some fungal diseases.
how to watering and feeding indoor edibles is to do this, ensure your crops are planted in pots with drainage holes in the base (or with an integral drainage system, below), and set these pots inside waterproof containers or on saucers. To test the moisture level, feel the surface and poke your finger about 3⁄4in (2cm) down into the soil.
If it feels dry, pour on some water. If the top of the potting mix is wet and glistening with moisture, it may be waterlogged. Drain any excess from the waterproof pot, and don’t water the plant again for a day or two until the surface feels dry.
Watering from below
One way to ensure you don’t flood a plant with too much water and cause spillages is to pour the water into the saucer beneath the pot. The potting mix then draws the moisture up through the drainage holes to the plant’s roots.
Some containers for indoor use may incorporate a plastic plate on supports that create a well in the base to minimize the risk of waterlogging.
- Avoid fungal infection
Water the potting mix only, not the plant’s foliage, as it can encourage diseases such as grey mould and downy mildew.
- Use a rose head
Use a watering can have fitted with a rose head to water all seedlings and young plants, which may otherwise be dislodged by a stream of water.
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Food for thought
Edible plants need a range of nutrients to keep them healthy; the most important are nitrogen (N), potassium (K)—or potash, as it is often called—and phosphorous (P). These nutrients promote the health and development of different parts of a plant: nitrogen encourages healthy leaf growth; potash stimulates a plant to flower and fruit, and phosphorous helps it develop strong roots.
Most all-purpose fertilizers contain a balance of the key nutrients as well as essential micronutrients, but others, such as those for leafy or fruit crops, contain a concentration of nitrogen or potash.
Take care not to overfertilize your crops, as this can cause more damage than underfeeding them. Fertilizer packs will also specify whether they are suitable for organically grown crops.
Many liquid fertilizers and powders will need to be diluted before you apply them to your crops. Check a package carefully for instructions on how to do this, and do not be tempted to give more than is required.
Fertilizers for long-term crops Slow-release pelleted fertilizers that release nutrients over a number of months can be added to growing mix when planting. They contain all the vital nutrients needed for healthy plant growth and can be used for crops, such as fruit trees, that will grow in their pots from year to year.
For established plants, remove the top layer of potting mix each spring and replace with some slow-release fertilizer mixed with fresh mix.
Feeding fruit trees Trees such as figs and peaches benefit from an annual dose of all-purpose slow-release fertilizer to keep them in good health all year. Apply pellets as directed on the package in early spring.
Easy hydroponics Many commercial crops are now grown without soil using a system known as “hydroponics.” This term simply means growing plants in water. The growing mix is replaced by materials such as coconut husks or pumice stones, which accommodate the roots.
Most of the hydroponic systems available require you to have an understanding of the specific nutrient needs of your chosen crop, which you then apply carefully to the plants to ensure good growth (nutrients are naturally present in soils and are added to many growing mixes).
Many also include growing lights. If you are new to hydroponics, look out for complete units that provide everything you need, including the growing unit, seeds, medium, nutrients, and a grow light. You can then experiment with more sophisticated systems once you feel confident.