To water or not to water?

Girl and granny watering flowers in garden

…that is the question.  There really are not rules on when to water and when not to.  It all depends on the type of plant, soil conditions, weather and soil conditions.  Generally speaking though, if the soil looks dry, it needs water.  A good test if you are unsure if your plant needs water is to stick a spade twelve inches into the dirt surrounding your plant (dig far enough away from the plant to avoid cutting its roots).  If it is dry, you need to water.

You should water your plants as slowly as possible.  If you water too fast, the water will flow outside of the rootball and will do no good.  By slowly watering, the water has time to absorb and go to the heart (roots) of the plant.  Think about a pleasant, slow, gentle rain, versus a heavy downpour during a thunderstorm.  Plants prefer a gentle rain, even if that “rain” is coming from your sprinkler.

A great way to water slowly is with a sprinkler.  There are several kinds that spray in different patterns.  The most common are rotating (circular) oscillating (back and forth).


When watering, always water near the roots of the plant.  Watering the leaves can lead to disease and is frankly a waste of water.  It’s also a good idea to water in the morning so that if you do get water on the leaves they have time to dry off during the day.  Only water when you know your plants or grass are dry.  Too much water can be as damaging as too little.  Watering in the cool shade of the morning also allows the water to absorb into the ground before evaporating.

Be sure to water deeply.  Lawns and annuals need water to reach down approximately six inches because their roots don’t grow deep.  Perennials, shrubs and trees have deeper roots, and thus need the soil watered to approximately twelve inches.  The longer your sprinkler runs, the deeper the water will soak into the soil.

When planning a vacation this summer, keep in mind watering needs, just like you would plan for pet care in your absence.  Ask a neighbor or friend to check on your plants every few days if the weather remains sunny and dry, and be sure to leave them access to an outside faucet, hose, and sprinkler to keep your plants quenched until you return.

Lastly, it’s a great idea to mulch around plants that need frequent watering, because this reduces the runoff on the surface and slows evaporation from the soil.

12977746 - installation of water sprays on green lawn


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