The Q&A Archives: Early signs of overwatering...

Question: Is there a way to spot early signs of overwatering? My garden has a plastic sheet over the soil. I can't really see the soil condition. I can't keep poking a hole to determine if the moisture is reasonably deep. And I don't know if my soak hose is actually delivering enough "juice". From my experience, the only sign of overwatering is a wilted plant. I like to find an early warning system so I don't ruin the garden.

Answer: To be honest, it takes some initial probing and experimentation to determine the correct amount of watering because there are so many variables at work. You may find that the needs change depending on plant size and temperatures and fruiting stage, too. Your plants' health is a good indicator also. If they are growing slowly they may need more water or better soil fertility if you think the water supply has been adequate. Finally, soil type also influences the need for water -- the more organic matter is in the soil the less supplemental water the plants will need. This is where experience and maybe some record keeping over the years will help. Perhaps you can designate one small section as the "test area" which you check by lifting it up and thereby avoid making holes all over. I'm sorry I don't have a secret method for you, except maybe to try an automatic timer if you tend to forget to shut the water off.

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