Water to Keep Your Plants Alive
My father had a theory about watering plants. He said that once you start watering plants in a dry season, they come to depend on it, therefore, he wouldn’t start. Of course he was right, once you start watering garden plants, they do start depending on you. But the alternative is to let your plants die, or wait so long to begin watering that they are so completely stressed they won’t recover.
Here are some suggestions for keeping your plants alive. With trees and shrubs you planted this spring (or even last fall), they need a minimum of 10 gallons of water a week, allowed to soak in slowly. It’s better if they have two 10 gallon buckets full a week, soaked in slowly. Don’t make the mistake of soaking them every day, too much water is almost as bad as not enough; the roots will sit there in the wet and not grow at all. If you paid out good money for the tree you planted back in the spring, then weekly watering to keep it alive is a good investment in a shade tree of the future.
With lawns, 3 waterings a week, about 2 hours each time, should keep the grass green. However some varieties of grass will go dormant in dry weather. Bermuda grass, for example, will survive the heat and drought and when it starts raining again, will commence growing again. Bluegrass or similar turf grass lawns, by contrast, need a constant supply of moisture, so it’s best to water those every other day.
Roses and tomatoes both do best if watered in early morning. If you are one of those folks who likes to take the garden hose and spray down your roses or tomatoes late in the afternoon, wetting down the plants and shooting a bit at the roots, then you are doing more harm than good. Both roses and tomato plants are prone to fungal problems, and fungus spores love a hot, wet environment. That method of watering insures you will have blackspot and mildew on your roses because the leaves stay wet overnight. It insures your tomatoes will develop wilt faster, and spread quicker, as well. A much safer and more efficient method is to use a soaker hose in your row of tomatoes and soak them for about an hour, twice each week. Or, use the garden hose without a nozzle, and soak around each tomato plant (or rose bush) for 2 minutes, move on to the next one then come back and do the first one again. Aim only at the root area, don’t soak the leaves. If you must use an overhead sprinkler, use it in the early morning so that the air and sunlight evaporates the moisture from the leaves quickly.
For herbs of most any kind, along with beans and carrots, they are less picky about how they receive water. Overhead sprinklers are fine, soaker hoses work well, too. But with peppers and eggplant, they also do best if watered early in the morning rather than late in the evening. Peppers, eggplants and tomatoes are all distant cousins and while peppers and eggplants don’t suffer from as many fungal problems as tomatoes, keeping their foliage dry when you water the roots is best.
The important thing is don’t use my father’s advice. He would let his garden plants suffer until they couldn’t be revived with water. The better method is to water your plants on a regular basis, not daily because the roots need to go a bit deeper. But 2 or 3 times each week, soak the roots of all your plants well and they will have a very good chance of making it through this persistent drought.
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