A number of variable come into play when it comes to maintaining a garden, but a vital component that the gardener does have some control over is water. Mother Nature does help in this area, however, few gardens can get by on natural rainwater alone.
While many towns impose water bans during the summer, it is important to know how to best manage water resources and to efficiently garden around the water supply.
When it comes to the landscaping around the home, consider native and drought-tolerant plants. Native plants are suited to the extremes of this area and are suited to withstand short periods of wet and dry, hot and cold weather.
Drought tolerant plants often have deep roots that can seek out deep ground water or a growth habit that requires little water, such as succulents.
When/How to Water
Regardless of the weather or variety of plants, it is almost guaranteed that watering will be necessary at some point during the summer season. Timing is crucial. Most plants want to dry completely before watering, but not stay that way for too long. Potted plants that get too dry will pull away from the edge of the pot exposing the root ball to air, further drying it and leaving it susceptible to disease and stress. If the plants get to this stage, the soil needs to be saturated and wait to see if the plant can rebound.
Time of day is also important. As mentioned, some towns with water bans restrict the timing of watering, so these guidelines must be met, but if possible, the best time of day to water for optimal plant health is early. A solid watering early in the day allows moisture to soak in to the plants and not rest on foliage. Water that remains on leaves overnight can breed disease much quicker than normal. In fact, many plants prefer to be watered in a way that doesn’t wet the foliage at all, but right at ground level.
This can be achieved with a hose nozzle or even better via drip irrigation or trickle hoses. Hoses that put out very small amounts of water at the base of plant will not only conserve water in the long run, but also make it available to the plant as it needs it and not force it to grab all at once.
When trying to decide if a garden will need water while away for the weekend or even just at work for the day, become a loyal weather watcher. Most growing plants require about an inch of rain per week during the spring and summer. A great way to monitor rain levels is to have a rain gauge in the yard to keep track of recent precipitation. If it is around an inch or more a week don’t worry too much, but under that amount and the landscape will want to be supplemented quickly.
Also always remember to water thoroughly when transplanting plants into a new area or when adding amendments such as fertilizer. Watering during transplant will help settle roots and expunge air pockets, which can harbor disease. Watering after fertilizing can disperse the nutrients throughout the soil to prevent burning.
To help ease water costs and avoid the limitations of town water bans, water barrels are a great asset to the garden. They are a great resource to capture natural rainwater on those wet days to utilize during dry spells. By placing a water barrel under a gutter, one good downpour could last the week!