Columns, In the Garden

Hydrating Outdoor Plants Requires Responsibility

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SOUTH BURLINGTON – Water is a precious resource, and we should do what we can to conserve it. It is possible to keep outdoor plants well hydrated while also being judicious about water usage.

photo by Amy Simone Water at the base of the plants to direct water to the roots, not on the leaves.

If adding plants to flowerbeds or landscape, choose the right plants for the location’s moisture conditions to ensure success from the start. Add some compost to the planting area, which will aid in the retention of water in the soil. Cover any bare soil with mulch or plant ground cover plants, which will help to keep the soil cooler and hold in more moisture.

At this point in the season, some gardeners may be planting additional vegetable seeds such as lettuce, beans or carrots for succession planting. Providing them with consistent moisture is necessary to break down their seed coats and ensure germination. Recent flower or vegetable transplants should be watered daily for the first week or two after planting.

Pay attention to vegetables, berries and flowers as they work hard producing. Giving them more water while they are actively growing will help them thrive.

Remember that container plants are limited to the moisture available in the small quantity of soil in their pots. Plan to check them daily and soak the soil as needed.

photo by Amy Simone Container plants are limited to the moisture available in the soil in their pots, so monitor these plants daily and soak their soil as needed.

Help established plants be as resistant to drought stress as possible by watering them less frequently but more deeply. Saturating the soil to a depth of six inches will encourage the plants to develop a deep root system. The same principle applies to your turf grass plants, which will grow deeper roots if you cut them at a height no shorter than three to four inches tall.

Rain hopefully will provide a majority of the inch of water per week (two inches if it is especially hot and dry) that your plants require. Water as early in the day as possible so more water soaks into the soil and is available to the plants’ roots. The cooler morning air will cause less water to evaporate than watering in the heat of the midday sun.

While watering, direct the water to the soil around the base of the plant. Avoid getting the leaves wet or having soil splash onto the foliage. Moist foliage puts the plants at risk of attracting fungal diseases and pests such as slugs.

photo by Amy Simone Soaker hoses, such as this one with tiny holes, direct water right where plants need it with less evaporation.

Using soaker hoses is an excellent way to concentrate the moisture where it is needed with less water lost to evaporation. If installing an irrigation system, ensure that it senses existing moisture so as not to waste water. Monitor where the sprinklers are directed to avoid watering the sidewalk.

Rain barrels and dehumidifiers collect water that can be recycled back onto thirsty plants. However, do not use water from rain barrels derived from roof runoff on edible plants due to the risk of contaminants.

Stay in tune with plants’ thirst clues to give them exactly what they need, when they need it.

Amy Simone is a UVM Extension Master Gardener from South Burlington.

Amy Simone

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