Growing Concerns: Despite wet spring, our gardens need water

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For a while this spring, we thought the rain was never going to end, but now many gardens and lawns are wishing for some rain. Water is such an important part of gardening, yet so often we overlook it.

I am lucky to have a rain barrel in my garden, but as I was filling up the watering can recently to do some spot watering, I found the barrel’s water level quite low. I know some people will find that hard to believe, but the rainstorms many have had over the last week do not result in every garden receiving the same amount of water.

Something to remember is that as the ground dries out, it forms a hard crust, which during a strong downpour, causes the water to run off and not soak in. This is why it is important to cultivate the ground.

If you have mulch, run-off does not seem to happen as much. But in a real strong downpour, mulch can shift with the rain, and therefore from time to time you might have to gently rake the mulch back into place.

Also most plants require about three to four inches of water penetrating the soil to all the roots to absorb it. A quick watering does not always help them.

I prefer to use soaker hoses — the ones that allow water to drip out of small holes along the length the hose. They can be buried under the mulch or hidden underneath the leaves of the plants. By applying the water directly to the soil with the drip hose, there is little evaporation of the water.

Rain barrels are another great way to store water that can be used at a later time. I know folks who have several linked in line so that as the rain fills one, it flows into another and on to another one. This comes in handy for people who have large gardens or a vegetable garden that requires even more water than flower gardens do.

A few tips to remember about watering:

  • It is best to water before 10 a.m. so the plants have enough time to absorb the water before the heat of the day. They also have time for the moisture to dry from their leaves, which reduces the chance of disease and fungus growth.
  • Plants require at least two to four inches of water about every seven to 10 days all season long.
  • The more you water, the more often you need to fertilize. I prefer a water-soluble 20-20-20 as plants can use it right away.
  • Check whether your garden is thirsty even if you had enough rain because sometimes gardens still need a bit more water.