A Drop in the Bucket?

© Erich Westendarp / pixelio

Right about now, gardens begin to show the down side of consistently good summer weather: Previously lush green lawns now sprout brown patches and once fresh container plants droop towards the dirt – not unlike some gardeners, who find themselves spending most of their free time with a watering can. Luckily, there are other ways to beat the heat. Once you know these tricks of the trade for effective watering, you’ll save time and money for other pursuits. 

Wait for the Optimal Time to Water

Plants only benefit from water when it reaches the roots. Water in the blazing midday summer sun, and your efforts will evaporate too quickly from the soil. Evenings, the earth and air retain intense heat and water loss from evaporation will still be high. That’s why you should wait to grab the watering can or hose. So what’s the ideal time to water? Early mornings, when soil saturated with dew can take up the water without losing a drop.

Make Sure to Water Thoroughly

Water the garden every two or three days, and only then very thoroughly! If you water every day and only a little bit, you run the risk of leaving the deep layers of soil dry and watching your plants die of thirst despite your efforts. The rule of thumb is to leave on the sprinkler for at least 45 minutes – not in the midday sun, of course, when the water droplets can become tiny magnifying glasses and cause unsightly sunburns on greenery. There’s a different rule for container plants and window boxes: here, you’ll need to water daily and only as much as the substrate can absorb.

Invest in Automatic Watering with a Timer

It’s easy to adhere to the optimal watering time and the right amount of water with irrigation software that includes a timer. This is a particularly good investment for larger gardens, since there are a number of systems with excellent water conservation features. Special sensors can measure soil moisture and calculate the amount of water needed, for example, and the corresponding duration. Many irrigation systems will also let you specify the area to be watered, eliminating the water wasted on patio and paved surfaces, for example. There are practical drip systems for containers and boxes, too, complete with sensors that can be fed into an irrigation timer.

Irrigate Balcony and Patio Plants Effectively

Potted and container plants need particular attention during hot periods – no wonder, since the small amount of soil in a container dries out much more rapidly than a deep garden bed does. Nevertheless, you’ll spare yourself some trips by using boxes and contaners with integrated water reservoirs. Plants will be set for several days, meaning you might just free yourself up for a little getaway.

Ensure Water Stays in the Soil

Pellets and other soil amendments that help soil stay moist can be helpful. Many work by binding more than their weight in water and then releasing it to the plant. In order to mitigate loss by evaporation as much as possible, it’s a good idea to cover bare earth with a layer of mulch, for both potted and garden plants. There are decorative alternatives to bark mulch such as stone, glass marbles, or shells.

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