It’s late July and the weather is hot, hot, hot. Your garden needs adequate water reserves to survive in the dog days of summer. Here are some of our best tips to help you water your garden well.
1. Check your soil.
Before you water, check the soil’s moisture. Stick a finger into the soil, about 3 inches deep. If the soil feels dry, you should water. If the soil is moist below the top 2 inches of soil, but drier on top, you can water at a later time. Anything below the top 2 inches of soil should be moist for your plants to take up water. Be sure to check soil moisture frequently.
2. Water at the right time for best results.
If you can, water your plants in the early morning hours. In the warm temperatures, you’ll want to give your plants adequate time to soak up the moisture before the sun beats down. Watering early in the morning allows your plants to retain the most moisture possible.
If you can’t water in the morning, water your plants in the evening after the heat of the day has passed. But don’t water them too late either. Plants need to dry off before the sun goes down in order to avoid encouraging disease.
Do not water in the heat of the day (midday to early afternoon) if at all possible. This will waste your water, as much more moisture will be lost to evaporation by the heat of the sun. Watering frequently in the heat of the day will also train your plants to crave more water than they really need.
3. Water deeply.
Most plants need approximately one inch of water each week. More established plants will not need as much moisture because of extensive root systems. New transplants will need much more water as they have small, often immature root systems. And, seeds and seedlings will demand moisture like a newborn baby needs their mother’s milk.
Make sure you water deeply and evenly, without drowning your plants. Uneven watering can lead to problems like blossom end rot. And remember, rain water is always preferred over tap water. Use water from rain barrels if you can. Soaker hoses are a great way to make sure your plants are watered evenly.
4. Don’t drown your plants.
While water is critically important, you don’t want to drown your plants! Too much of a good thing can actually kill them. Overwatering your plants will cause root rot, plant disease, and a whole host of other problems. Waterlogged plants will take up less oxygen and nutrients from the soil. Follow tip #1 above and check your soil before watering to make sure your plants really need it. Don’t just water plants for watering’s sake.
5. Avoid top-down watering.
Some plants, like tomatoes, grow better when you water them at the base of the plant and keep their foliage nice and dry. Some plants can become sick or diseased if their foliage stays too wet. (Of course, you can’t avoid this with Mother Nature’s rain.) Soaker hoses are a good idea for this reason. They will water your plants without wetting the foliage.
If you must water with a nozzle sprayer, make sure you are watering the plant at the base as much as possible. Always water gently with these methods. Misting your plants or using the “gentle shower” setting is usually your best bet.
If you use a traditional sprinkler, make sure you are actually watering your garden and not the sidewalk or other areas.
6. Mulch away!
Placing a good layer of organic mulch around the base of most plants will help keep water in the soil. If you don’t believe me, try it! Mulch one plant and leave another of the same plant un-mulched. You’ll quickly notice how much more you will need to water the un-mulched plant. I guarantee it!
Compost, dried (untreated) grass clippings, straw, shredded leaves, pine needles, and wood chips make for good mulch. Added benefits of mulch? It will keep your plants cooler and will also discourage disease.