The art of watering: Not too much, not too little

Soil might be the most important part of the garden but water is essential.

Soil might be the most important part of the garden but water is essential.

Plants that are not watered correctly die. Ones that do not receive enough water wilt and those that receive too much water also wilt as the plant can not take it in. How much water is enough?

Watering with a wand is different than watering with a watering can. When using a wand or hose it is hard to gauge how much water goes into the small pot as opposed to over the edges. The best method is to put the end of the wand close to the top of the pot and hold it there. A quick sweep across a number of pots leaves them all wanting. A simple method to tell if a plant needs water is to lift the pot. If it is heavy it is full of water.

When watering larger containers dig down into the soil to ensure that the soil beneath the surface is moist. Most commercial baskets are watered everyday unless there has been at least an inch (2.5 cm) of rain.

Recently planted plants will need more water than established plants. Established plants will have roots that extend in all directions as opposed to newly planted ones with their roots in the hole in which they were planted.

This is the reason that it is important to break apart roots that are tightly woven together before planting. If the roots are left to grow in the shape of the pot they will not spread outwards and will always be subject to periods of drought.

Annual flower beds will need to be watered regularly. The amount of water an annual needs depends on the variety of annual and where the garden is located. Logically, the hotter the bed the more water needed.

It takes longer to soak a bed with a soft gentle sprinkle but the moisture is more likely to soak in than a hard fast burst of moisture. The harder the water hits the ground the more likely a crust. Once formed it is hard for moisture to penetrate.

If in doubt as to how much water has soaked into the earth, take a shovel and dig. The goal is to water until the soil is moist at least 6 inches (15 cm) below the surface. The deeper the water soaks the more likely the roots will grow downwards.

When watering, water the plant and the area around the plant to encourage the roots to spread outwards. As the roots expand downwards and outwards the plant will become more self-sufficient and less time will be spent watering.

During hot weather lawns are often watered to keep them green. Most commercial grass mixes will thrive on an inch (2.5 cm) of water a week. How long this takes depends upon the time of day and the temperature.

Watering in the early morning and evening is quicker as less water evaporates. Setting a water gauge in the path of the sprinkler will take the guess work out of how much water the lawn received.

When watering with sprinklers, take the time to adjust them to ensure that the water hits the target plants as opposed to the house, sidewalk or road.

Watering is time consuming. It can be minimized by giving plants more water less often.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at or

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