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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - February 05, 2010

From: Vancouver, BC
Region: Canada
Topic: General Botany, Watering
Title: Consequences of overwatering plants
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Explain how an error on the high side when watering would affect soil fertility management, IPM efforts?

ANSWER:

This is an excellent question but is too broad for us to provide a very helpful, exact answer other than "ohhh, overwatering can kill your plant". I will respond by giving you a few things for you to think about so perhaps you can answer the question yourself.

When you give a plant too much water it either sits in it or it runs away, depending on the type of soil in which it is planted. Clay soil can hold moisture and drains slowly; sandy soil drains very quickly. A container plant has the same issues depending on the potting medium and the pot drainage. Excess water can drain out of pots sitting on saucers or on the ground, but if a standard pot is sitting inside a decorative outer pot, the soil will become saturated with overwatering.

How would that affect soil fertility?  What makes soil fertile?  Do you know what water soluble fertilizer is?  What if you are growing plants in "potting soil", applying fertilizer and then overwatering so that the water just runs out of the bottom of the pot?  What do you think would happen? And if the pot has no drainage, what happens to the pore space in the soil?  Do you think the plant roots can extract the oxygen they require for respiration from water?

So, do you think the plant will be happy and healthy under those conditions?   And is a stressed plant more or less susceptible to attack by pests and diseases than a healthy one?

I think you can figure out the answer to that question and can put it in your own words!

 

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