Best Way to Properly Water Your Plants

General anxiety about the decrease in annual rainfall over much of the country is already having one good result—a more thoughtful approach to the use of water. All too often, watering the garden is something people do because water is available.

Obviously, plants need water, but do they need as much as they are given? I water any plant copiously when I first plant it and at any time I move it. For the rest, I keep an eye on the garden and water only those plants that appear in need.

Water Your Plants Best Way to Properly Water Your Plants

Without sufficient humus, soil dries out quickly after rain or watering. But if you’ve prepared your soil carefully, added a lot of humus, and set your plants on a good footing of compost, moisture will be held there, within reach of the roots.

That takes care of the situation underground. What about the surface, and water loss through evaporation? Well, mulching gets almost as much attention today as composting, but before going any further, I’d better tell you that I don’t mulch my flower beds. I mulch shrub plantings and young trees, and I mulch raspberry and blueberry plantings, but flower beds, never. For one thing, I don’t like the look of flowers against mulch, and for another, my “stuff-and-cram” borders don’t leave room for much bare earth. When they did, in the first year, I knew it wasn’t forever and I chose to weed instead of mulching. As the perennials grew in size, any bare earth disappeared. The leaf canopy served two purposes, shading the ground and keeping it moist, and inhibiting the growth of weeds. I do sometimes mulch a few plants for winter protection, but I use what’s free— and around here that’s pine needles. It makes sense to use what is locally available since transportation adds so much to the cost.

We have gone from the watering can to the watering system, and a highly sophisticated system it is. Any good garden supply catalog now includes a veritable arsenal of such equipment. Much of it has been designed to encourage gardeners to get water to the roots of plants, where it is most effectively used, without sending it wildly over the garden, some of it to evaporate en route and some to leave wet foliage prone to the spread of disease.

Water Your Plants 1 Best Way to Properly Water Your Plants

Even without the high-tech stuff, you can apply the principles to your own garden. From experience, I know it is true that if you’re the one who has to lug buckets of water to the garden, you make sure that it goes only to plants that need it, and you apply it to their roots. A hose is very handy for moving water to the place where it’s needed but it can tempt the gardener and, particularly, the nongardener into standing there for hours waving it about in great airy sweeps over the garden. Give such a friend a soaker hose to keep him or her out of trouble.

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