Many plants dead from dryness

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Stravaig
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Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Stravaig » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:17 am

If plants are dying or dead from drying out then I suppose the obvious solution is to water them more. But I don't think it's that simple. Please let me give you more details in the hope you can help.

All of the plants are culinary herbs or edible flowers.

Some of the plants were those I'd grown myself from seed, others were reasonably healthy small plants I'd bought from the supermarket or garden centre.

They are all being grown inside an apartment which has very dry air. (Air-conditioning in the summer and central heating in the winter.)

Most are being grown on south-facing windowsills, ie they're getting plenty of sun in the summer.

They are being grown in locally bought compost. I don't have much choice in this as many local people have family dachas (country homes where they grow fruit and veggies, etc) so there seems to be very little demand for indoor growing except for orchids and stuff like that. (At first I tried the orchid compost because it was all I could find, but apparently orchids thrive in poor soil. So, despite giving the plants lots of feed, I didn't have much success with that.) Eventually I was able to buy another type of all-purpose compost. It's not very nice and releases lots of tiny flies into the flat. It also grows mould on the surface when it's watered. Currently it's the best I can find so I'll have to persevere with it.

Back in the UK I was always under the impression that it was easier to kill a plant by over-watering rather than under-watering. Therefore, I kinda held back a bit. But it was obvious that the soil was too dry - every morning it would be totally dry. As it is, I'm giving them loads of water - the amount seems excessive to me - but they'll still drying out and dying.

What am I doing wrong?

I hope some of you will be able to share your wisdom as I'm at a complete loss about what to do next.

Thanks in advance.

PS: Perhaps it might be useful to note the one big success I've had as the exception might give you a clue to solve the problem. The exception is lemon grass. A few months ago I planted some seeds in a tiny little pot then, once I had some sturdy seedlings, I repotted them into pot of about 6" diameter at the top. They've had the same treatment as the other plants, but they're thriving. The best stalk's leaves are now over 16" tall!
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Monika
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Monika » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:10 pm

Could you dry them from the bottom, that is, standing them in water and taking them out when they have soaked it up? Then you know that they have taken up as much as they need rather than you deciding how much to water from the top.
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Stravaig
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Stravaig » Thu Jul 25, 2019 7:39 am

Hi Monika,

Thanks for the idea. That's how I started off, ie putting water into the saucers below the pots in the expectation that the plants would suck up what they needed. But it didn't work so I did some research and found that apparently it's better to water at the base of the plants - and that's not working either.

I'm now wondering if they should maybe be repotted (again) into even larger pots.

It's quite disheartening to go to all the effort of growing plants from seed only to see them die off slowly of dryness despite daily watering.
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retropants
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby retropants » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:27 am

I was going to suggest larger pots, which will take longer to dry out. Good luck!
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Geoff
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Geoff » Thu Jul 25, 2019 10:55 am

Sometimes the compost shrinks away from the pots a bit so when you water until it runs through it has by-passed the compost and not wet it properly. Water them then work round the edges pressing the compost down, if possible create a bit of a depression between the rim and the plant then water again.
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Stravaig
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Stravaig » Thu Jul 25, 2019 12:14 pm

Geoff, I think you might have hit the nail on the thread. Many thanks. The compost is indeed shrinking away from the sides of the pots so I am most likely just pouring the water straight through and not actually wetting the compost. I won't fix what ain't broke with the lemon grass - that seems happy as it is - but from this evening I'll be trying it your way.

Retropants, I'll try Geoff's way first but meanwhile the size of the plants which are still alive doesn't seem to merit larger pots yet. Thanks anyway.
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Monika
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Monika » Thu Jul 25, 2019 6:50 pm

Just another idea: could you stand the pots on damp gravel or sand? Then the atmosphere around them would not be as dry as is normal in a dwelling.
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Primrose
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Primrose » Fri Jul 26, 2019 10:17 am

I think compost sometimes gets so dry that total immersion of the pot in a bowl of water for a while is the only way to ensure that the moisture has fully penetrated all the fibres. The surface can look wet but in fact the water hasn,t been absorbed at all lower down in the pot and in the middle where're the roots are

If you have a clean empty spray bottle i'm wondering whether a daily misting of the plants would also help?
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Stravaig
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Stravaig » Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:00 pm

Thanks again, folks.

Sadly, I think I'm too late to save most of them. But I've learned something and now know better for the next batch. :)
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Primrose
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Primrose » Fri Jul 26, 2019 12:18 pm

Forgot to say that if yiu see air bubbles coming up through your compostonto surface water, this definitely suggests compost shrinkage.
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Stravaig
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Stravaig » Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:11 pm

This morning I chucked what was dead and repotted anything worth saving. Plus I have a couple of small new plants. I put bits of polystyrene in the bottom of the pots to help with drainage. Another new tactic was to put them on a south-facing windowsill. They were on a north-facing one before and, despite it having lots of light, it never got any direct sunlight.

Let's see if that makes a difference.

We'll be back in the UK for a week's holiday in August so I'll order another little hydroponics system to keep us supplied with herbs during the winter. The hydroponics works well and is very easy for someone like me who has very little experience.
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Stephen
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Stephen » Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:24 pm

Growing herbs is well worth doing.
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Stravaig
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Stravaig » Tue Jul 30, 2019 8:48 pm

I agree, Stephen. If you can get them in a supermarket they're usually quite expensive and they're never as fresh as they are from your own home-grown pots. I like to grow edible flowers too. Admittedly, that's mostly for the wow factor of presentation. :-)
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Stephen
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Re: Many plants dead from dryness

Postby Stephen » Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:02 am

Combination idea.
I grow a lot of chives and chive flowers are delicious.
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