Water For Better Plants

How nice it would be to simply turn on a sprinkler and let the drops fall, with no concern for water shortages and water bills! But most of us cannot take water for granted and must find ways to apply it to plants and flowers as efficiently as possible. 

Watering PlantsPin

Getting the most for your dollar’s worth of water, with the best results, requires good judgment and the following of a few basic rules.

Best Method Of Water Application

In the case of lawns, a sprinkler is the best method of application. For efficiency, set your sprinkler, so it produces gentle rain. 

A fine mist is wasteful because it drifts onto drives and walks, and much evaporates before reaching the ground. 

And secondly, take a tip from Mother Nature. When it rains gently, the moisture is absorbed readily by the soil but when the rain comes down in a torrent, much runs off. So avoid heavy or forceful sprinkling.

Brief Sprinkling

The poor economy is a brief sprinkling. One weekly soaking of the soil requires less water than daily light applications that only moisten the surface of the soil and evaporate before coming into contact with plant roots. 

In average soils, an inch of water is needed to reach a depth of 6” inches. After adjusting your sprinkler to produce a gentle rain, keep it on for half an hour. Then dig into the soil and see how far the water has penetrated. 

This will show you how long to leave your sprinkler in one location to moisten the soil to the depth you want.

Sprinkling Pattern

Within the last year or so, sprinklers with a square sprinkling pattern have come on the market. They are water savers because you can adjust them for corners of a lawn without wetting adjacent drives and walks. They are equally good in squared-off vegetable or flower gardens for the same reason.

Sprinkling Lawn By Hand

Sprinkling a lawn by hand is efficient, for you can direct every drop exactly where it is needed. BUT, few gardeners have the patience to stand around long enough to water to the depth of 1” inch, not to mention the minimum of 4” inches and the optimum of 6” inches.

Economical Way Of Watering

Sprinkling is sometimes practical in flower and vegetable gardens, but it is not always the most economical way in terms of water and time, and often it presents cultural hazards. 

A better way is to use soil soakers laid between flower and vegetable rows, which allow water to penetrate the soil so that none is lost on nearby plants, little through evaporation. 

And soil soakers do not splash mud on leaves and flowers nor transmit diseases from plant to plant—an important consideration with roses, chrysanthemums, and many other flowers.

If you mulch your plants, a soaker may be laid on top of the mulch. But, better still, bury it in the mulch, for the mulch does not need to be moistened and, again, you save water.

Simple Watering Technique

To water tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc., I make a shallow furrow below the outer spread of the plant foliage and fill it twice or more with water from a hose or sprinkling can. 

For pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers, I puncture holes in the bottom of a coffee can and bury it near the crown of each plant, and fill the can each time I water so that moisture seeps into the root area—with no run-off or loss of water to the soil outside the root zone. It is surprising how effective this simple method is.

Trees and shrubs will go for long periods without watering because their roots go deep into the moist subsoil. However, watering is in order if they begin to wilt or their leaves begin to brown or curl, and insects do not cause this. 

But, if water is scarce and costly, why waste it on nearby trees or shrubs that are still oblivious to the dry condition of your garden?

Localize Watering

One way to localize watering is to use a hollow lance attachment or watering spike on your garden hose. Push the lance into the ground at several points around the plant in question. 

Water from holes in its tip penetrates to the roots without wetting the surface soil where few roots of trees or shrubs are found. A second method is to tie a cotton glove over the end of the hose—an improvised soil soaker. 

Water dripping slowly through it is concentrated around a specific plant. A third method is to allow the hose to run into a pie pan or over burlap placed on the ground beneath a plant. 

Be sure to anchor the hose so it won’t jump away, thus diverting water from your plant and wasting it on aerial spraying when the faucet is turned on.

How Often Do You Water?

At the first signs of wilting, as a general rule, this means lawns, flower borders, and vegetable gardens will need a weekly soaking unless an inch or more of rain falls during the week. 

Remember, plants grown in soils rich in organic matter and those covered with a mulch do not dry out nearly so fast as non-organic, unmulched soils. 

The hotter the weather, the faster the soil dries, and the more moisture is lost by transpiration through plant leaves. So in hot weather, check daily for signs of drought.

Water in the evening? By all means, if it is the most convenient time or if you use a soil soaker. But do not sprinkle in the evening, for leaves are then slow to dry, and the moisture on them encourages mildew and other diseases.

44659 by Charles H. Potter