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Teach Your Staff to Avoid Over-Watering
Train employees to water 'just right.'
By Dennis Crum, Director of Growing Operations
I believe that far more plants are lost each year to over-watering than to under-watering, yet the people we growers hire are good people who want to do a good job caring for our crops. It seems like many are so afraid of killing plants by drying down that they over-water and kill the plants with kindness. This can cause issues including little or no root growth, high or low fertility levels, various fungal or bacterial diseases, and undesirable plant habit.
There are occasions when a plant care person will severely dry a plant to the damaging level. This situation usually occurs in one of two scenarios: 1) The person has been told to grow drier and pushes the plant too far in the other watering direction or; 2) Due to a rapid improvement in outdoor weather conditions, light and/or temperature levels change faster in the greenhouse than the plant care person can react to the plants' response.
But watering is still a point of concern. We have learned that it's much better to water "lighter" and more frequently, if needed, in the early growing months than to water heavily and possibly too early.
3 Training Tips for Watering
To ensure consistent watering, we've come up with a system of training that works well.
1. Shadow teams. We "shadow" new watering staff for one to two weeks, using experienced plant care people. These staff members share all the "do's and don'ts" with the new employee and also point out their personal tricks of the trade.
3. Reinforce by review. All new watering staff are instructed in the watering protocols and they are also reviewed yearly with existing staff.
Use Visual and Other Indicators
The primary factor we use to determine watering decisions is usually visual.
Our peat-based soil is "black and shiny" when wet, "dark brown to black" when moist, "brown to dark brown" when moderate, and "paper bag brown to light tan" when dry. Over time, we have developed crop action plans that show the stage of soil moisture at which each crop should be watered. The grower then visually "grades" the current soil moisture level and weather conditions to make his or her watering decision.
Other methods include physically picking up plants to judge them by weight and while doing so, remove a few from their container to observe the entire soil/root ball. Often, the uppermost layer of a container can appear dry while the largest percentage of the soil mass can be quite moist. Based on time of day and environmental conditions, delaying watering may be the best action to take in this situation.
There are many other methods we use to fine-tune watering for summer and winter conditions. We'll cover those in a future article.
For more information, contact our Grower Team at 734.654.6420 or mail@PWfourstar.com.