Gardeners' Dirt: Watering wisely
By Jean Wofford - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Aug. 4, 2011 at 3:04 a.m.
As we all know, summers in our area are hot and dry. This year, in fact, may set some all-time records. We must use water wisely to strive to keep our plants healthy.
I do not know about you, but I also need to keep the foundation of my house from cracking. Since we have been in Victoria, we have had our house leveled in three different areas. I know now that I need to keep the area surrounding my house damp enough to prevent cracks in the foundation. This is not a problem, since I have landscape plants around the house - and they require watering.
Soaker hoses are very effective and economical. I have these hoses all around the perimeter of my house. They are nestled very close to the foundation and are covered with mulch (to keep my little bulldog from playing with them). All my soaker hoses are attached to the faucet with timers. This should prevent me from having costly foundation repairs, plus, it very effectively waters my foundation plants.
I do have in-ground sprinklers and they are all working properly. All the heads are clean of grass and debris so they can water effectively. They are all properly set so water is only getting where it is intended to be. I make sure to use the hose and wash the sprinklers occasionally to remove dirt and other material that would limit flow.
I see sprinklers around town putting a lot of water into the streets. They need to be adjusted so they properly water lawns - and not concrete. I see them spraying full force in midday and a lot of water evaporates before it reaches the ground. This is very wasteful for our limited resource.
TIME OF DAY TO WATER
I like to water late in the evening because of the low evaporation rate and water and cost savings. If you reside in Victoria city limits, currently watering is allowed in the evening only between 8 p.m. and midnight. Check for restrictions if you live elsewhere.
Sometimes, I will water very early in the morning and that is OK, just not my preferred time. It is the best time to water to minimize disease.
Watering at night causes your grass to stay wet all night and increases the chance of plant diseases.
City of Victoria early morning restrictions allow for 6 to 10 a.m. watering. Remember, with the need for water rationing, there can be monetary fines imposed if you water when you are not supposed to do so.
I have places in my yard where in-ground sprinklers just don't reach. In these areas, I use portable sprinklers.
It is important for me to check and make sure water is not wasted and only being put where I intend for it to go.
There are plenty of places in my landscape where none of the above watering choices work. Then, I pull out my hoses and water by hand.
Even with this method, applying it correctly is important and a slow soaking is always better than a quick drenching.
MONITOR YOUR WATERING
It is very important to monitor watering. I like to water using less water pressure. That way it prevents runoff and allows it time to soak in.
HOW OFTEN TO WATER?
In order to be able to water effectively it helps to know the needs of your plants.
It is easier to water plants if they all have the same water requirements, so group plants accordingly.
Depending on temperature, rainfall, shade, wind and humidity, some plants may need watering twice a week; others, once a week or once a month.
HOW MUCH TO WATER?
Dig down into the soil and see how dry it really is. The top layer may be dry to the touch, but an inch or so down, there is moisture.
You may ask, "Do I need to water or should I wait a day or so?"
If it is moist, do not water. If it is dry 2- to 3-inches deep, water.
So, how much? Water sufficiently so the water soaks into the soil to a depth of 6 inches, which normally requires applying about 1 inch depth of water. And to do that, you'll have to apply it slowly so it soaks in and doesn't run off.
I know we have written a lot about mulch in our articles for this column, but it is worth repeating to use mulch generously to preserve soil moisture. It keeps the soil cool and moist - and is certainly needed during this hot and dry time.
Every gardener wants to have a healthy environment. You can do so by watering wisely to help preserve our precious resource.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or email@example.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.