Watering & Irrigation
By: Brent, Co-Owner, Brent & Becky's Bulbs
As every gardener well knows, growing plants is a complex balance of elements that come together to create the biological beauty of life. Without water, that whole process would fall short! Here are our best tips and techniques for irrigation to keep your garden healthy and bright this season:
How Much to Water
In the world of gardening, no practices are entirely universal—and watering is no exception. Depending on the individual plants in your garden, their needs will vary and can be heavily influenced by their soil conditions, climate, and even the time of year. For example, sandier soils won’t hold water as easily and will need watering much more frequently. So, in terms of your own garden, you’ll want to do a little digging into your landscape’s soil conditions and the specific needs of your plants before scheduling out a watering timeline that works for you.
Typically, plants with larger or thinner leaves will need more water than those with thicker and fleshier leaves. Tropicals native to the moisture-rich conditions of the jungle find it much harder to keep their thirst quenched. Desert-native cacti and succulents, on the other hand, are used to holding onto what they can get. No matter where the plant is from, though, they will always need more water during the growing and flowering seasons and much less when they are dormant.
Irrigation Tips & Tricks
In comparison to pruning or harvesting, watering may seem like the simplest part of caring for your plants. While it isn’t particularly difficult to do, there are some things to keep in mind before letting the hose loose in your garden.
Water deeply, not frequently. For some of us, our plants can be as precious as our pets, so the instinct to dote on them with daily waterings is natural. However, giving the soil a chance to dry out before another watering is actually better for your plants, and can actually promote better root growth! A general guideline is to wait until the top 1-2 inches is dry before watering your plants again. And when you do water again, be sure to fully saturate the soil to the roots.
Water early in the morning or late in the evening. Cool soil can retain moisture far better than soil that has been warmed from the bright sun of mid-day. Watering in sunny conditions can also cause the leaves to burn.
Keep water away from the foliage. Water on a plant’s leaves is about as useless pouring a glass of water on your arm to quench your thirst. Not only will it not give them what they need, but it can also promote rotting and disease. When watering, direct the stream to the base of the plant to ensure the moisture gets where it’s needed—the roots.
Listen to your plant. While most people worry about not underwatering their plants, the most common cause of death is actually overwatering. When roots are waterlogged, they aren’t able to absorb the oxygen they need and can often rot. But before that happens, chances are your plant will warn you with discolored or wilting leaves and stunted growth.
Types of Irrigation Systems
While there’s always the old-fashioned watering-by-hand method, technology for keeping your plants moisturized has evolved to offer many different options in recent years:
Automatic Watering Systems - While these types of systems are helpful, watering by a timer instead of the needs of the plants can be detrimental to your garden. Your garden may need more water this week because of no rain, or less water because of all the rain. A timed system doesn’t pay attention to the weather, and by over or under watering you jeopardize doing more harm than good. We’re not totally bashing this method, we’re just saying that you should also pay attention to what your garden needs and not to totally rely on “mindless” irrigation.
Sprinkler Systems - These traditional systems spray water into the air to mimic the Earth’s natural irrigation system— rain! The biggest difference is the quality of the water. Rain can be cleaner. City’s have treated water and well water can be heavy in minerals. They are best suited for well-draining soils to prevent waterlogging and should be monitored closely when used to prevent foliage from rotting.
Soaker Hoses - While sprinkler systems mimic rainfall by dispersing droplets from above, soaker hoses concentrate on releasing water to the soil and roots where it’s needed. For an added price tag, you can even find systems with built-in moisture sensors that will turn on and off based on what the soil needs!
Drip Irrigation - Also known as micro-irrigation, this is generally considered the most efficient method of watering. It supplies a slow flow of water directly to the roots of your plants through a complex system of pipes, tubes, and emitters installed underground. With the water localized to where it can be most effective, you won’t need to worry about water retention, fungus, or mold— you can just enjoy your beautiful, healthy plants worry-free!
Whether you’re doing it all by hand or investing in the infrastructure of a drip irrigation system, the fact remains: all plants need water. And no matter how you do it, you can rest assured that with proper watering practices, your garden will be filled with flourishing flora all season long!
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