Water Wise Tips

Water is the life blood of plants! Water in the soil determines how extensively the root system develops, which in turn increases the plant’s ability to access water and nutrients from the soil.

The best way to water is to apply it at a rate that the soil can absorb without runoff.  Soil that drains too rapidly or too slowly prevents the plant roots from receiving water.  Do this test to check for permeability. Dig a hole about 1-2 feet deep and fill it with water. The speed in which the water percolates into the soil is a gauge of its drainage. 

· Drains away in an hour or two—Excellent

· Drains over night—Adequate

· Stands longer than that—Poor

If drainage is poor, choose plants that tolerate heavy soil.  Amend the soil with compost to increase moisture retention/permeability, then use mulch to reduce runoff and evaporation.

Vegetables, bedding plants, and perennials have comparatively shallow roots, so they may have to be watered more often to ensure a consistent water supply. Check the soil at the depth of the expected root zone to see if water is reaching it.  Frequent wiling retards plant growth and reduces harvest yields.  Keep area weed-free since weeds will compete for water.

Plants in containers  need to be watered more often than plants growing in the ground. Frequency and amount of water depend on media, location, amount of sun, temperature, type of plant, size of pot, etc.  Example: Hanging baskets will dry out quickly on a hot windy day. Usually, water only when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch.  Overwatering can be worse than underwatering, since oxygen-deprived soggy root systems can lead to diseases.

Trees, shrubs, and landscape plants should be watered out to the dripline or outer edge of the plant. For deep-rooted trees, a root needle or watering stake may be used for deep watering.  In general, water deeply, slowly and infrequently. No small sips!

In garden beds, sprinklers waste water due to overspray, runoff and evaporation.  Use soaker hoses or a slow drip on your garden hose, that allows water to seep directly into the soil, putting the water exactly where your plants need it—at the root zone.  Water early in the morning (best) or early evening (second choice) to reduce water loss through evaporation.

Remember, the amount and frequency of watering depends of several variables related to the time of year and the conditions of the planting site.  A good water meter is your fingers or wooden dowel.  Check down a couple of inches – if it’s moist, hold off on watering.

Recent Posts