In the heat of the summer, it’s tempting to go and stand outside in the sprinkler all day. Ah yes, the cooling properties of water are tremendous. We need to drink water as well, to prevent our bodies from getting dehydrated. In many ways, plants are like us. They also need a long, cooling, and refreshing drink. But how and when you water can have a big impact on the health of your fruits and vegetables.
Design for Watering
When you’re installing new garden plants, whether they’re annuals or perennials, place the plants that love water in the natural hollows and damp places in your garden. Place heat-loving plants together in a warm area, preferably an area with easy access to water, whether it’s a hose or a rain barrel.
Water early in the day. Why? There are so many reasons. The plants are just beginning their daily process of making food, and to do this they need water. Just like you might drink a glass of water in the morning to kick start your metabolism, plants like a good drink in the morning.
In the morning, the sun is less direct and the ground is cooler. This means that the water you do use on the garden has a better chance of soaking into the soil rather than evaporating. Your plants will get more water for your efforts than they would if you watered in the heat of the day.
Some plants like tomatoes are particularly prone to diseases that splash from the soil onto their leaves. Water in the evening, and the plant is damp all night. Water in the morning, and the water slow evaporates from plant leaves, reducing the chances of disease.
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How does the rain fall? Usually it falls slowly and steadily, sometimes pouring and sometimes drizzling. Plants like the slow, steady drip of the rain. Spraying them with a single shot of the hose doesn’t work as well. The water tends to pool on the surface and spray onto plants’ leaves. Garden plants need about an inch of water a week. If you can, give them this water a few times a week rather than every day, and stay at each plant a little longer, watering slowly. This will help water move into the soil and help plants develop deep root systems that move down into the soil to seek the water.
Watch The Leaves
Plants often droop in the heat of the day. When you head out to water in the morning, take a look at your plants’ leaves. If they’re drooping consistent, you probably want to increase your watering. If they’re drooping only in the afternoon but perk up in the morning, you’re probably fine.
Build and Protect Your Soil
Good soil has a lot of organic material, and it doesn’t contain too much sand. Sand is notorious for helping water drain, which is not really what you’re looking for in the summer. A summer mulch laid on the soil can help protect the damp soil underneath, but take care! Watering the top of the mulch makes it harder for water to move through the mulch into the soil. Gently move the mulch around the plant aside, water, and then replace the mulch.
How have you been watering your garden plants? Do you have any tricks to share?