Water Smart Watering
Summer is here, and along with abundance in the garden comes long stretches of hot, dry weather. Here are some tips to keep your plants healthy, hydrated and happy!
- If your schedule allows, water plants in the morning. This hydrates plants before the heat of the day and minimizes excess moisture and humidity. If mornings aren’t convenient, evenings work, too. During especially hot stretches, watering in the evening can help cool soil temperatures, which many plants appreciate.
- Water deeply and infrequently, but also consistently. Watering deeply but less often encourages plants to grow deeper roots and access water that is held further down in the soil. But watering too infrequently, and then overcompensating, can stress plants, causing problems like cracked or rotten fruits and veggies. If you’re sowing seeds in the summer, try to water daily to keep the soil moist and encourage germination.
- Get to know your soil. If you’re not sure how much to water, dig down into the soil with your finger a couple of inches, just before you water. If the soil is dry, it means you might need to water more frequently. If it’s damp, then you can hold off for another day, or try watering on the same schedule but just a bit less next time.
- Practice slow-release watering. People have been using tools like ollas for centuries to water plants. Ollas are clay pots buried in the ground that are filled with water, which slowly soaks out. You can buy olla products or make your own, using unglazed ceramic pots and saucers. You can also try watering spikes, which use water-filled bottles that slowly release water through tubes of spikes that go into the ground. Another favorite technique is to punch small holes in the bottom of a gallon jug or bucket and fill with water, leaving them above ground, to slowly hydrate the soil below.
- When you do water, water the soil, not the plants. Plants absorb water in the soil, through their roots. Overhead watering and watering plant leaves causes excess evaporation and can also cause disease problems. To get to the soil in a densely planted bed, try using a watering can with a long spout or a watering wand on the end of a hose.
- Conserve water in the soil with mulch. To help prevent evaporation, cover the soil in between your plants by adding compost or straw to the top of your garden bed. As a bonus, compost and mulch will break down over time and add organic matter into the soil, which also helps to hold onto moisture.
Water is abundant in the Pacific Northwest, but a changing climate means hotter, drier and less predictable weather patterns. Get to know your soil, be in relationship with your plants, and find what works for you to practice water resiliency in your garden – you can do it!