Boy, does this hot weather make one thirsty! Here at the Garden Centre, we’re always checking on each other to make sure we’re drinking enough water as we spend the day out in the sun. Just like we need more fluids on a hot day, our plants also require more to drink. Did you know that on a hot day, a mature shade tree can take up as much as 100 gallons of water out of the soil? And almost as quickly as a plant is taking up all this water, it’s losing this moisture from the leaf surfaces through transpiration.
If you’re like me, most of us will attempt to water our plants as we’re rushing out the door in the morning on the way to work, or out running errands. If the plant is lucky, it may receive a quick 20 to 30 second spritz, a friendly pat on the head and is left to fend for itself for the rest of the long, hot day. This is the equivalent of sucking on an ice cube and then being parched until the sun goes down. Here are a few simple ways to water wisely.
- When you are digging a hole to plant a new shrub or tree, pour a full watering can of water into the hole and allow it to soak in before placing the root ball into the hole. This way, moisture is available to the roots right away. When you finish planting, create a ridge of soil just above the outer edge of the root ball then water inside the ridge. This helps the water to drain down into the root ball and not to run away from the base of the plant.
- Use soaker hoses to water your garden. Most of us water by spraying from the hose up into the air to give the leaves a refreshing shower. As lovely as that looks, it really isn’t doing the plant any good. Although it’s true that the plant can absorb a small amount of moisture through the stomata found on the leaf, the majority of the water is absorbed by the roots of the plant. The water sprayed on the leaves will quickly evaporate into the air and won’t have a chance to be absorbed. Water from a soaker hose comes out slow enough to penetrate directly into the soil and not run away from the plants. Think of it this way – people absorb water through their skin when they stay in the bath too long (prune-y skin). It doesn’t mean that it’s the best way for you to take in water to re-hydrate. So water the roots, not the leaves. Make sure you leave the hose running slowly for a longer period of time, allowing the water to penetrate deeper into the soil. Better to run the water for a longer period of time less frequently then to water a little more frequently. The longer the hose runs the deeper it goes into the soil. When watering using a water wand on the end of the hose make sure you are watering the soil and not the leaves.
- Collect rain water using a rain barrel or any other water-retaining container to water your plants with. Of course, this method requires some rain to collect from. Maybe not the best first-line approach this particular summer, but rain collection is a great, eco-friendly back up system for watering in dryer seasons.
- It’s always best to water early in the morning. If a plant is given the water it needs at the beginning of the day, it’s less likely to wilt in the heat of the day. When watering in the evening, water droplets sit on the leaves, which can lead to fungus problems.
- Adding a 2” layer of mulch to your gardens will stop the sun from drying out your soil as quickly.
- Save and reuse “grey water” to water your plants. You can use your cooking water (e.i. water used to boil or stem vegetable), water from washing dishes, and used bath water to water you plants.
What to Do During Drought
Water Your Garden.
It’s the most obvious strategy, of course, but to stay healthy, most lawns like an inch of mositure per week and garden plants require much more. As a rule of thumb 1-inch of water penetrates the soil by three inches. If a tree has roots when planted that are 12 inches deep, it will need 4 inches of water on the surface to reach all the way down. (Your sprinkler won’t be enough when it’s a heat wave)
Make sure to give deep watering over frequent watering. It’s a bit of a waste to give your plants less water more frequently: Doing so discourages the roots from growing as deeply into the soil (where it stays moister longer) as they can, and it’s also inefficient as more water is lost to evaporation.
*Tip: To measure the amount of water your plant is getting, cut the top off a 2 liter pop bottle and put it next to your plant of choice, or use a tuna can (they’re about an inch high), every time the tuna can is filled or an inch of water has filled the pop bottle, you will have watered down by 3 inches. This is a great way to really see how far your sprinkler or a rain fall is going for your garden.
*Mike~ism: When measuring your watering, remember 15 minutes is a measurement of time, not a measurement of water. Your plants are a living thing that depend on you to survive
A 2- to 3-inch-deep layer of mulch over the soil can do wonders: It keeps the soil cooler and shields the ground from direct sun. The benefit is that moisture stays in the soil longer, where it’s more available to your garden plants.
Run a soaker hose underneath your mulch to maximize water savings: Water will be delivered directly to the ground (reducing evaporation) and slowly (reducing water loss to runoff). It will also keep plant foliage dry, which helps prevent many common fungal diseases such as black spot on roses.
If you apply fertilizers (organic or synthetic), it’s helpful to stop at the onset of a drought. Fertilizers encourage plant growth; the more a plant grows, the more moisture it needs. If fertilizer salts build up in your soil because they’re not naturally leaching out with rain or irrigation, they can build up and burn plant roots, causing further damage.
It might not be fun at the best of times, but getting those weeds out of the garden is especially important during drought. The reason: Weeds’ roots steal valuable moisture from the soil.
Deadhead Your Flowers.
Removing spent blooms before they have a chance to set seed saves energy for your plants: They don’t need to put extra energy (which they need water for) into producing seeds.
Have a questions, ask our garden experts
For more watering and care articles, please see the links below