Proper watering techniques important

I receive many calls throughout the growing season to identify problems with plants. The most common “disease” I identify is lack of water.
Gardeners often are under the false impression that their garden is moist enough to support the plants in it. Containers and hanging baskets are no exception. While too much water can be harmful, not enough water in your garden can be just as devastating.
Many of the gardeners I’ve talked to recently claim their garden has enough moisture because it has rained lots in the last week. While it may have rained a bit in the last two weeks, it is not enough moisture to combat the terrible drought conditions we’ve been experiencing this past spring and summer.
If you don’t believe me, do a simple test. Go out side with a pitcher of water, pick a spot on your lawn, and pour all the water from the jug in that one spot. See how quickly the ground is absorbing the water you have poured out?
If the ground was moist, the water would sit up on top of your lawn and slowly seep into the ground after spreading out into a puddle at the surface.
The drought has caused the water table in the ground to be very low this year, so every bit of moisture is sucked deep in the ground and used up immediately. This does not leave any water much closer to the surface where your garden plants need it.
Also, during the hot and sunny days we were experiencing, any moisture at the surface of the ground would readily evaporate.
How do I combat this situation you ask? Well, the best way is with a regular watering regime. And I mean watering, not misting with the hose. The worst thing you can do to your garden or lawn is stand for a few minutes and spray the ground with the hose.
If the surface of the soil is glossy with moisture, that does not mean the rest of the soil is wet. Stick your finger through the top of the soil—I guarantee the soil below is dry.
This method of watering does way more harm than good. First of all, if you continuously water your lawn and garden this way throughout the season, the roots of all of your plants will grow to the surface in order to benefit from this small amount of water you are providing.
In the event of hot and dry weather, the lawn will turn brown very quickly. As well, the leaves of your plants will turn brown, curl up, and eventually fall off. The roots of the plants could be burnt or damaged because they are so close to the surface of the soil.
This is not a plant disease but rather a symptom of drought. It is important to provide your garden with a constant schedule of regular watering for a prolonged period of time. I am not promoting the wasting of water, but a wise use of the water you have access to.
To adequately water your garden, you need to apply water in a constant manner for at least 30 minutes (longer if the conditions are drier). The best method of this is with a soaker hose system.
A soaker hose supplies a steady stream of water right where you need it—without losing any to the air like with a sprinkler.
In the event you have large gardens, like me, you may have to water with an oscillating sprinkler. Set the sprinkler to apply a constant supply of water for at least 30 minutes (the time may be less if the ground is not as dry or may need to be longer if the ground is extra dry).
This constant, steady supply of water allows the soil to absorb and hold the water at the level that the plants need it.
Many communities have water restrictions in place in the summer months, or you may live in a rural area with only a well. Regardless, make the most of the water you have available and use it wisely.
I have very large gardens and a very large lawn. I only water my gardens on my designated water day. I monitor the soil moisture and water accordingly to the gardens needs.
I also have two rain barrels of rain water that I use for watering when extra watering is needed with the watering can.
I never water my lawn, for two reasons. The first one being that grass has adapted to the fluctuating conditions throughout its growing season. Grass flourishes in moist conditions and, in dry conditions, has the ability to move into a dormancy stage until the moisture conditions improve.
This does not harm your lawn but many people think their grass is dying when they see it turn brown mid-summer. I’ll tell there isn’t much mowing when the lawn has gone dormant.
The second reason I do not water my lawn is that my gardens come first and then there just isn’t enough time to water the lawn, especially when I feel that it is not necessary.
If you have a small garden or some container gardens, you can water with a watering can. Let the water from the can slowly flow out and give it a chance to soak in.
Be generous with the water. A good method is to water once, allow the water to soak in, and then give the area another watering. Check below the surface of the soil with your finger to make sure the soil is moist.
Remember that to benefit plants, water needs to be at their roots—not at the surface of the soil.
I will feature a whole column on mulches in the near future but know that by mulching your garden, you will retain soil moisture while also maintaining a cooler soil, thus the plants require less moisture.
Mulching has many benefits so you may want to consider applying a good mulch product.
I strongly encourage you to adopt a regular and thorough water regime for your garden. Make your garden the watering priority and opt out of watering your lawn.
And by keeping on a regular schedule of constant moisture, you actually will use less water in the long run.
Regular moisture will reward you with beautiful and healthy gardens.

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