It seems we just stepped out of a very wet spring and already we are watering the grounds like crazy. There are not many times I hear cross words or gardeners debating, or more likely non-gardeners questions gardeners, but one topic that does stir the pot is watering.
It pours, you do your happy dance only to find that under the shrubs the soil is bone dry. So you break out the hose and spot water the shrubs only to have your neighbor scold you for wasting water after a rain. Or it rains, the ground is wet but the next day you are watering and attracting looks from the neighbors because they do not have a maple tree like you do gulping up all the water in the garden.
We have all been there. Here is my advice when it comes to watering.
1) Use plants with similar water needs together. Sure you can spot water a plant here and there, but over time your garden will expand or you may simply take on more hobbies and not have the time or the desire to spot water.
2) Plant thick and mulch until the garden fills in. Bare, exposed soil equates to the ground drying out more quickly, not to mention becoming a breeding ground for weeds. A 2-3 inch layer of mulch, organic is best and I am partial to pine fines, when not on a slope, does wonders for conserving water.
3) Loosen the soil. Water tends to bead up and roll off of tight, compacted soil and mulch. Do an experiment, for the fun of it. Gently loosen the soil around a plant, careful not to disturb the roots. Now with a watering wand, water that plant and one that has not had its soil disturbed for the same duration. Now stick your finger in the soil. The disturbed soil allowed more of the water to penetrate and was directed towards the roots.
4) It’s hot, but the breeze is so nice… it’s a trap! (Insert the voice of Admiral Gial Ackbar from Star Wars). Warm temps and a breeze is a double whammy for plants. The heat draws out moisture from the plants and the wind only serves to exasperate matters. The breeze may feel good to us, but it can be stressing the plants.
5) How to water. Whenever possible, I use a watering wand to direct water to the ground and around plant roots. Sprinklers are great for saturating large ares, but one must avoid using them during the hottest part of the day or when it is breezy out. The heat and wind simply evaporates the water, reducing the amount that actually reaches the plants.
6) Drip irrigation is a godsend, but can be expensive So, use in areas that are difficult to water with a watering wand.