It’s July and the heat is on! You’ve got your garden in and now you just need to take care of it. Like all of us, plants are going to require a lot of water this month! Watering is probably the biggest issue when it comes to gardening problems. People tend to overwater or they just forget to water. Luckily, plants are usually resilient and can bounce back with proper care.
How should you water?
When you water your plants, it’s always best to water the soil and try to avoid wetting the foliage and flowers. Watering the plant itself is a way to encourage disease. It’s important to water enough that all of the plant’s roots get water. If it rains, you still may need to water. Often rain is not enough to get to all the roots. With a container or pot, one way to ensure the plant is getting enough is to water just until water begins to run out of the drainage holes. Don’t place outdoor containers on a saucer because the container will be sitting in a puddle. You can place your container on legs rather than flat on the ground for better drainage, but this isn’t a necessity. A good technique for watering is to water a certain plant a little, move on to another, then come back and water more. This gives the water time to soak in and prevents runoff. The idea is to drive the water down into the soil so the roots will follow the water deep into the ground. This will help establish the plants so they can better survive the heat of summer.
When should you water?
There is no set schedule to watering. Water only when your plant needs to be watered. When it’s cool or overcast, that may only be every few days. When it’s hot and dry, that could be a couple times a day. The best time to water is before the plant really needs it. Watering in the morning or late afternoon is ideal so that any wet leaves or flowers dry quickly in the sun. Watering during the heat of the day wastes water and it is when the plants are already thirsty. Consistent moisture is preferred for vegetable gardens, especially tomatoes. This will reduce fruit splitting, disease, and pest infestation. Plants in pots dry out faster than plants in the ground. The smaller, contained area stores less moisture than the ground, and the smaller the container is, the faster it will dry out. If you can lift your container, you should lift it when it’s dry and lift it after you water it so you will know what it feels like when it needs water. Dry soil weighs a lot less than wet soil.
How can you tell if you need to water?
Different plants have different needs for water. This is something you should find out about your plant either from its ID tag, the internet, or a helpful nursery worker. Most plants are fine with an average amount of water, but some plants like the soil to stay moist and certain plants like to dry out completely before being watered again. You should only water when the soil is dry an inch down.
Here are ways to tell if you’re not watering enough:
• The soil is dry more than an inch down.
• The plant is wilting or limp and/or the leaves are crisp.
• The flower petals are dropping
• Growth has slowed or new leaf growth is smaller than normal
• The leaves become discolored, usually yellow or brown, often with dry edges.
Here are ways to tell if you’re watering too much:
• The plant is wilting but the soil is still damp.
• The leaves turn brown but the soil is not dry.
• Edema develops in the form of yellow, white, or dark bumps or blisters usually with curling on the leaves.
• New leaf growth falls from the plant.
• Root rot, a fungal disease, causes roots to turn grey, brown, or slimy and will eventually cause the plant to wilt.
Keep an eye on your plants and they will let you know how they are doing. Treat them well and you will get to enjoy them for a long time! And don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated too!