To water… or not to water

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Perhaps the most critical element contributing to plant growth is water.  A gardener’s quest to find the equilibrium between too much and too little water can be never-ending.  Variance in water needs from plant to plant, soil to soil, and season to season can make for a real challenge in getting it just right.  Keeping in mind three simple rules can help even the least experienced gardener become a more confident and effective waterer.

1.   The first and most important rule to remember is to “know your soil”.  This simply means that even a basic understanding of your soil’s composition can help you determine just how long and how often you should be watering your garden.  Rich, well-prepared soils will absorb an abundance of water and allow more time between waterings.  Because water moves so slowly into clay, water can only be applied for a short time before runoff occurs.  This means that in general, clay soils will need to be watered very slowly for a longer period or with more frequency than soils high in organic matter.

2.   The second important rule is to use a watering wand whenever possible.  The use of a long-handled wand will facilitate the delivery of water straight to the root zone where it is needed most.  Applying water to the foliage of plants has little to no horticultural benefit and may even lead to various fungal problems when poorly timed.  Try to remember that water should be delivered within the drip zone of the plants, below the foliage whenever possible and only for as long as the soil will allow with little water lost to surface runoff.

3.   The third rule for more effective watering is to try and make it enjoyable.  A nice evening in the garden with a cool drink in hand can prove to be a great environment to really get a grasp on what your plants require.  Take your time while watering and make note of how long you water each particular area.  Before watering, dig into the soil with your hands a few inches to see if the soil has dried sufficiently since your last visit.  This simple test will eliminate guesswork from the watering process.

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