Watering Correctly Saves Time,
Money, and Plants
The heat of summer is here, and along with it, water restrictions
in many municipalities. Home gardeners may fear that with restrictions
in place they wont be able to properly water their gardens.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Summer water restrictions
can force us to re-evaluate our watering practices. In many cases
we may find that our watering practices are wasteful and inefficient.
For established plantings, deep, infrequent watering is recommended.
In most cases, an inch of water per week (rain plus irrigation)
should be sufficient. Applying that inch of water in one deep watering
will encourage deeper rooting, which leads to stronger, healthier
plants. Watering once a week also fits well into most municipal
water restrictions. Shallow, frequent watering, on the other hand,
will lead to shallow root systems and high water loss through evaporation.
With shallow watering, such as light frequent sprinkling, you actually
end up wasting quite a bit of water and still dont meet the
needs of your plants.
The best time of day to water is early morning before the temperatures
begin to rise. This gives the plants a good supply of water to face
the heat of the day. Early morning also tends to be a time of lower
winds and thus reduced evaporation. If watering cannot be done in
the early morning, very late afternoon is also satisfactory. It
is important to water early enough so that the leaves have time
to dry before nightfall to avoid development of fungal diseases.
If possible, choose watering methods that will not wet the leaves
(such as soaker hoses) and thus allow for late evening watering.
There may be need to evaluate the device used for watering. While
a lawn sprinkler may be a good method for the lawn, it may not be
the best way to water a vegetable garden. Pick a watering device
that matches the needs of your garden and the time you have available
to water. Once a device is selected, know the correct way to use
that device, in order to water efficiently.
Oscillating lawn sprinklers are the most common used devices for
watering lawns. The drawback to them is that up to 50 percent of the water
put out can be lost to evaporation or drift. Water may also be delivered
unevenly to lawns, since more water is dispensed near the sprinkler.
The sprinkler must be moved around to provide even watering over
the entire lawn. You can measure the output of these sprinklers
by putting out a straight-sided can and measuring the water that
accumulates in it.
Root feeders have become popular for watering trees and shrubs.
These can be useful devices, but the must be used properly. The
roots that are active in water uptake are not found near the trunk,
but rather out at the dripline and beyond. Therefore, the root feeder
should be used away from the trunk to be effective. Many people
put the root feeder too deeply into the soil. Most of the roots
in a tree or shrubs root system will be in the upper 12-18
inches of soil. The root feeder should be inserted so that water
is delivered to that area.
Soaker hoses have also become very popular. They can be very effective
devices for watering vegetable gardens and flowerbeds. Soaker hoses
allow water to weep out gently over the entire length of the hose.
The benefit to using these hoses is that the leaves are never wet,
reducing the possibility of diseases. The water goes right to the
root system where it is needed and very little is lost to evaporation.
Soaker hoses must be left on for a length of time to water deeply.
An inch of water penetrates about six inches in a clay soil. Let your
hose run for a while, then dig down with a trowel to see how deep
the water went. If it is less than six inches, the hose needs to run
When faced with summer watering restrictions, save yourself time
and money by carefully selecting the time and watering device which
best suit your gardens needs.
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