Summer Garden Watering Advice
Julie Kintzi, Garden Hotline Educator, Seattle Tilth
As the summer progresses, there is less moisture to
replenish the soil. Our west coast summers are typically dry with only
occasional rain that only sprinkles the surface and doesn't penetrate to the
plant roots. It is best to start the season with a fresh layer of composted
mulch spread on top of your planting beds to help regulate the moisture in the
soil. It is also best to mulch before the soil is too dry so that the mulch is
holding in water and not repelling it.
Watering is most critical for plants that grow for a
season like most of your vegetables and any plants that have been in the ground
for less than 2 years (including "drought tolerant" plants). Resist babying
your plants, and instead raise them to be strong by watering deeply and infrequently
so that the roots travel deeper into the soil. Essentially you are training
them to "water themselves" or at least have access to a water source stored a
foot or more below the surface when summer water availability is tight.
Training your plants begins with allowing the top couple
inches of the soil to dry out between watering. Get to know your soil and dig
down and feel for moisture. When it feels dry then you will know when to water.
If it gets above 85o, you will want to water more frequently while still
letting the soil dry in between.
Watering in the morning will discourage disease and keep
plants plump and happy throughout the day. If watering in the morning is a
challenge and if you want to save water, then consider using soaker hoses on a
timer. And there are also some very simple drip irrigation systems that can
also be valuable in keeping container plants happy. Containers need regular and
frequent watering unlike plants in the ground. Adding a layer of absorbent mulch
around the plants provides extra insurance for holding in water.
For more detailed information and for additional tips,
check out: http://www.savingwater.org/outside_watering.htm or contact
the Garden Hotline for personalized help.
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