Watering Potted Herbs
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Jean Gaither
Posted on: July 01, 2008

Watering. This is the first time I’ve done this but it works for potted plants perfectly. On my back porch, I turned a small pool table upside down. Which is about 6 inches deep. I line it with plastic. Fill 3 inches with water and set my plants in that water. I water less and my plants are growing very good. Nothing seems to be waterlogged. I have Sweet Basil, Rosemary, Lemon Basil, Tomatoes, Jalepeno Peppers, and a lot of Sage. My plants are beautfiful. Try it and tell me whatcha think.

I have concerns if the 3 inch water level is maintained constantly. Eventually you may notice problems, especially if the pots are impermeable to water, as are pots made from plastic. Growth may slow down, leaves may begin to turn yellow, and moss and algae may cover the soil.

What will happen over time is the roots will starve for oxygen and will slowly die. This may only happen to the roots that are below the water level, but that would be enough to damage the plants. During the hot summer this process may take a little longer because the water demand is higher, but in any season, this slow death due to rotting in the submerged root zone will eventually happen. Besides oxygen starvation, eventually there will be a buildup on salt in the soil which is equally damaging to the roots. When water drains away it carries the excess salts away.

If, however, you allow the water to drain away through a hole, this system of watering plants can actually work very well. For example, if you plug the hole and fill with 3 inches of water and let the plants stand in the water and then remove the plug after an hour, the roots will get adequate water without damage. If this is done daily or twice daily during hot weather and less frequently during cooler weather, your plants should be fine.

Thank you so much for your reply. I am not a writer, forgive me. I did forget one thing in my email to you. I do change the water when and if it stands, which is hardly. I have 3 inches to work with but I only use so much of the 3 inches. I didn’t want mosquitoes populating on my porch.

Thank you for the clarification. What you describe makes a lot of sense. One of the problems we find is that people do not water properly. Frequently the surface of the soil gets wet, but the underlying soil stays dry because not enough water is delivered to the pot. Soaking the pots this way ensures that the soil gets adequate moisture.

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