Rebecca shares 11 great summer watering tips to keep your plants healthy and your garden looking great through the heat of the summer.
Proper watering techniques depend upon the type of plant, the location, the type of soil, the temperature, the weather and the time of year. There are no hard and fast rules, but I do have lots of great tips that will help you succeed.
Before we start watering, it is important to learn the needs of your plants. Some like it dry, others prefer abundant moisture, and many more like moist, but well drained soils. The only way to know for sure is to learn through experience or ask more seasoned gardeners.
#1 Does Your Plant Need Water?
First, find out if your plants need water at all. The easiest way to check is to lift the pot. Dry pots will be light. Wet pots will feel heavy. With experience, you will learn how heavy a pot should feel when the soil is thoroughly moistened.
You can’t always use the lift-test with large plants or established gardens. In this case, use a soil moisture sensor, or use one of the best testing tools you have… your finger! You want to make sure the soil is moist at least several inches down not just the top 1-2.
Another way to check soil moisture is to grab a handful and squeeze. If it is too dry, the soil will crumble and separate. If it is too wet, the soil forms a tight ball with finger marks imprinted on it. If it is just right, the soil holds together without forming a solid mass.
The type of soil has great impact on watering. Sandy soils are easier to wet, but dry out faster. Clay soils are tough to wet once dry, but hold on to water for a longer period of time. Potting mixes or peat moss based products hold on to moisture well, but can be a challenge to re-wet if they dry out.
#2 Adjust your Watering Schedule As Needed
The second tip is to adjust your watering schedule as needed. Reduce watering when rainfall is abundant, and water more often when it is hot and dry. When too dry, many plants will show signs of stress and begin to wilt or collapse. Depending on the plant, it may be too late to revive it at this point – do don’t let it happen in the first place!
#3 Water At The Right Time!
Third, water at the right time. Early morning is the best . If you get the leaves wet, they will have time to dry before nightfall. It’s more difficult for plant diseases to get a foothold when the foliage is dry. If you water during the day, a lot of water will be lost to evaporation. If you water in the evening, the plant will be wet during the night and the temperature will be cooler. These are the best conditions for mildews, molds and all kind of disease problems. So basically, water in the morning if you can!
#4 Use Quality Watering Tools
Fourth, invest in the right watering tools. I learned a long time ago that life is too short for cheap hoses. There are so many high quality products, watering wands and watering cans on the market that there is no excuse for putting your thumb over the hose end and calling it good enough.
#5 Reduce Your Water Pressure
Using too much pressure, what we call firehosing, can damage your plants and shoot soil and fertilizer out of the pot. It also provides very little water to the actual plant. So the fifth tip is reduce your water pressure before you start.
#6 Water Slowly
Sixth, water slowly. A thorough deep watering helps roots grow downwards. Allow the water to soak deeply into the soil. Many times I will water, let the soil absorb the moisture, wait a few seconds, and then water again. I like to time myself as I water. Large plants or pots should get more time, small plants, less. I like to count to five or six for most medium sized pots.
If you water lightly and more frequently as many people do, you are putting your plants at risk in the heat. When the water is at the surface, roots grow upwards in search of moisture. Near the surface, water evaporates quickly leaving the roots vulnerable in hot dry soil.
#7 Avoid Watering The Foliage
Seventh, avoid watering the foliage and leaves if you can. Wetting the foliage is a waste of time, a waste of water and can promote the spread of disease. This is especially true for plants like roses or tomatoes. Deliver the water to the soil, not the leaves.
#8 Repeat Watering If Required
Eighth, repeat watering as needed. If you water too quickly, or apply too much water at once, the water may run down the outside of the root ball, leaving the center dry. This may also happen if the soil has completely dried out as dry soils can be difficult to re-wet. It may take several waterings to get the moisture back to the proper level.
#9 Water Hanging Baskets Properly
Ninth, water your hanging baskets properly. If you see a hanging basket moving around a lot in the wind - it may indicate that it is light and needs a water. Just like pots, you can lift a basket to check its weight. Either setup a drip system on a timer as we do here, or water manually with a watering wand and apply the water directly to the soil, not just the outside foliage. Keep the water going until it runs out the bottom of the basket. This is will take several seconds at very least. You’ll also find that moss baskets tend to dry out more quickly and may need to be watered more often.
#10 Water Your Trees
Tenth, for newly planted trees, invest in a Tree Gator or similar product. It’s a water filled bag that goes around the trunk and emits water over a period of time. It’s a great time saver and effective way to keep your newly planted trees alive through the summer heat.
#11 Mulch, Mulch, Mulch
Finally, in your garden, mulch whenever and wherever you can. 2-3 Inches of mulch covering your soil will go a long way to keeping the moisture in the root zone, moderating soil temperature and reducing the growth of weeds. A mulch can be anything, but the most popular at Art’s are the red fir and aged black conditioning mulch available in bags or bulk.
So there you have it! 11 great tips to keep your garden well-watered during the heat of the season. If you have any other questions, please feel free to drop in to Art’s Nursery or give us a call. Our talented, experienced horticulturists would be happy to provide additional plant care tips and advice.