Kurt Says “Water Wisely”
There’s A Heat Wave Coming!!!
Looks like we’re in for a run of scorchers the next two weeks. Temperatures climbing into the high to mid nineties for quite a stretch with little or spotty rain forecast. Man those iced teas are gonna quench your thirst while relaxing on the patio. Ahh that tastes so good.
Don’t forget your porch/patio containers and your garden beds. Chances are those plants are going to be mighty thirsty also. Fret not gardeners, Kurt Dorsey has some watering tips for you to follow. These easy to follow and common sense tips will get your beds, containers and vegetables through a heat wave with little trouble or effort.
First and foremost, lets take a look at a common misconception:
Plants need 1 inch of water per week
While that is often stated, it’s a rule of thumb. You need to know what you’re watering. Plants vary widely in their water needs. Vegetable garden seedlings, annual flowers and anything newly transplanted have shallow or limited root structure and therefore need a more consistent supply of water, so you may have to hit them daily or twice a day if it gets really hot for an extended run of days.
When you think of your established perennial beds and flowering shrubs, because they are more established and have a more extensive root system, they may just need the usual supplemental watering. The amount of water a plant needs depends on a number of factors, including the type of plant, its stage of growth, type of soil, weather and time of year. As seen in the example to the left, a plant’s root mass can be substantially beneath the soil and getting moisture to this area is vital to its survival.
The best way to water most plants is by applying enough to moisten the plant’s entire root system, and then letting the soil dry out slightly before watering again. Apply water slowly so it’s absorbed by the soil rather than running off. The easiest way to do this is to apply water directly to the soil around plants rather than watering with a sprinkler. Less water is lost to evaporation, especially on hot, sunny days. Foliage stays dry, minimizing disease problems.
Watering During a Heat Wave
When a heat wave is forecast, become proactive and deeply water your plants 24-48 hours before its onset. You can also top off mulch around root zones to three inches, especially in vegetable beds and around new transplants. If plants and soil are dry going into the heat wave, they’ll have little chance of surviving.
Every day of the heat wave, check for signs of stress. The first you’ll usually notice is the leaves curling as the plant begins to conserve water; then the plant will start losing its green color as photosynthesis declines; until the plant will begin to droop and sag, as it has exhausted its energy reserves and is unable to take in enough water through its root mass. The time between these phases will depend on the type of plant, the intensity of the daytime heat and how cool nights are.
Check the moisture in the soil every day. Lift up the mulch, and even if the surface appears wet, plunge your index finger into the area around the roots. If the soil feels wet the entire length of your finger, there’s no need to water. If it’s damp or less, water right away. Never let the soil dry out completely.
And last but not least – Container plants may need watering every day during extremely hot weather because they lose more water than plants with their roots in the ground. Always water potted plants with cool water at the base of their stems in the morning. Slowly pour the water directly into the pot, filling it completely full. This method increases the amount of water reaching the soil instead of running off the plant’s leaves. Also, the plant will have time to hydrate in the cool morning hours in preparation for the heat of the day. Fill the pot full of water two to three times to ensure the root ball is thoroughly moistened. Water the plant again when the top 1 to 2 inches become dry.
Remember – Healthy Plants are Happy Plants and Happy Plants are Watered Plants