Smart watering techniques for summer gardeners
By Margie Rose
Watering the garden is essential to keep plants thriving. When the weather warms, plants need more water, as the summer sun evaporates moisture from the leaves and ground.
Using mulch is one of the best ways to diminish the amount of water required to keep plants healthy. Thick mulch will suppress weeds, preserve water in soil, and keep plants evenly moistened. However, make sure you don’t bury your plants stems, because wet mulch can cause fungal diseases. Leave a two-inch wide donut-like space of thin mulch around each plant; shrubs and trees need a larger area of mulch around trunks.
Hand watering with a hose is time consuming and can be wasteful. A sprinkler can be difficult to place when an area is narrow or irregular in shape. Automatic sprinkler systems are more expensive to set up, but if sprinkler heads are efficiently placed, can be cost effective when considering water usage. Plants grow and change how the water is distributed. It is necessary to check periodically and make sure sprinkler heads are watering the garden, not the driveway or the street.
A drip system is ideal for vegetable gardens, narrow spaces, and roses, because water can be placed where it is needed without the chance of overflowing. Drip watering leaves the surrounding soil surface dry, discouraging weed germination. It also does not wet the leaves of plants, decreasing the risk of fungal diseases.
Placing plants with similar watering demands together allows for water to be used as efficiently as possible. Adding compost to the soil when planting helps to keep drainage and water retention at the correct level.
A deep soaking once a week (twice in very hot temperatures, for new plantings especially) is much better than frequent shallow watering. This encourages roots to grow deeper in search of moisture, and uses less water. It is also better to water in early morning on sunny days, to allow the leaves and soil surface to dry.
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