How To Guide: Moisture Metering

One of the most important aspects of gardening is making sure that each plant gets the right amount of water.  Too little and the plant may die, too much and the roots may rot.

As a general rule, cactus and succulents are some of the only plants that thrive in the very dry conditions, shown in the red zone on the meter.  Most houseplants, vegetables, and other garden plants thrive in moist soil, shown in the green area on the meter.  Only certain aquatic and bog-like plants thrive from regularly being in wet soil, shown in the blue area on the meter.

With the new baby fruit trees, I try to make sure that they stay consistently moist, watering every 3-4 days.  I aim to have the meter read just past the green zone, slightly into the wet blue zone immediately after the watering, and then generally in the high end area of moist.  With the majority of my vegetables and other plants, I try to keep the moisture reading in the middle of the green zone.

As you can see in the first picture, the baby plum tree is still moist but due for some additional watering.  The baby orange tree and tomato plant in the second and third pictures do not need to be watered at this time since they are plenty wet.  They are actually a little more wet than I would like due to a recent irrigation accident (which I will cover at a later date in more detail).  The extra watering was along the lines of an unexpected rainstorm, which shouldn’t be too bad in the long run, but in the meantime I am holding off watering these until they actually need the water.


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It is important to push the meter deep into the soil to test the moisture where the roots of the plants are, and not test the moisture at the surface of the soil since that is not where the plant gets its water.  As you can see in the third picture, the surface of the soil looks dry (more mulch is needed and will be coming soon), but the soil underneath is actually still quite moist.

Gardening Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Mature Fruit Trees

I have had the pleasure of living next to many mature fruit trees at the variety of places I have lived over the years, and they are always a welcome joy.  Mature fruit trees are very easy to care for.  Normally they just need to be fertilized about once per season (varies depending on variety of tree), and pruned once a year.  They don’t require much if any watering other than what they naturally get from ground water and the little rainfall we get here in Southern California.

When we moved into our new house, we were very excited to find out that years ago someone had planted a fig tree in our backyard.  We still do not understand why they planted a tree that can grow to be 50 feet tall in a raised retaining wall brick planter, and not directly in the ground next to it.  Perhaps they were attempting to control the size, but it seems that all it did was raise the tree higher.

At some point, someone also planted a pretty rose bush below the fig tree.  When we moved in, this rose bush (along with all of the others on our property) were looking very dehydrated and in very poor condition.  I started fertilizing and watering the roses regularly in order to try to revive them.  Roses need a lot of water to thrive, and are definitely not the most drought friendly plants.

Unfortunately, mature fruit trees do not appreciate tons of water near their roots.  Fig trees in particular are a Mediterranean tree, and thrive in drier conditions.  I started getting under-ripe yet rotten fruit dropping.  I finally figured out that the figs are rotting before they had a chance to ripen from the excess water they were getting from being near the roses.  One of the poor fig tree’s roots even poked up above the dirt!

The rotten fruit has all either been eaten by critters or added to the compost bin.  I am trying to find a good watering balance to allow the roses to survive (even if they don’t thrive), and prevent the fig tree from getting root rot.  It will be an experiment that I am hoping will go well.  I am planning to definitely relocate this rose bush once it is dormant.

When planning a garden, it is so important to take into consideration how certain plants will fare together when placing them next to each other.  Place plants with similar water, light, and soil requirements near each other.  Roses do their best with more sunlight than being under a big shady tree provides, so all the way around, this is a horrible location for this poor rose bush.  If you notice in the pictures, the rose bush is starting to reach out in all kinds of strange directions, searching for enough sunlight to survive.


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