Watering your flower or vegetable garden neednt carve deeply into your time or water bill. Conserve both by taking a few simple steps:
Test your soil. This will tell you what your pH (acid and alkaline) levels are and what nutrients are present. Proper pH and nutrient levels help a plant maintain good health, lessening its susceptibility to disease, and, in turn, equipping it to handle weather stressors.
Group plants with similar growing needs. Putting all of your thirsty plants together enables you to water only those plants that need it.
Safeguard your plants. Hot summer winds can dry out soil quickly, so place them in a protected area.
Time your watering. Water in the early morning or late afternoon to reduce evaporation. Try to water on a nonwindy day to avoid losing up to 50 percent of the water you are applying. Avoid runoff by giving the water enough time to soak into the soil. Moisture is lost every time the soil is cultivated, so keep this to a minimum.
Water only when your plants show signs of stress. Watering deeply, 6 to 8 inches, encourages deeper root growth, allowing the plant to better handle dry spells. Leaves sometimes wilt in the afternoon heat, which is normal. However, if that same plant remains wilted in the morning, then watering is necessary. Many times we water unnecessarily because of misread signs.
Mulch your garden. Use a 3- to 4-inch layer of grass clippings, shredded newspaper, or wood chips to reduce the soils temperature and retain moisture, extending the time between waterings. Mulching also cuts down on weed growth that can rob soil of much-needed moisture.
Use a soaker hose. Instead of watering from overhead using a conventional hose, try a soaker hose with perforations along the entire length. You place this hose on the ground, alongside your plants, where the water seeps out slowly and only in the root area where it is needed.
Keep your plants healthy. A healthy plant can handle the stresses of heat and drought. Watering in the early morning allows the leaves time to dry, avoiding fungus diseases. Place plants according to their cultural needs. Planting a shade lover in the sun requires more water for its survival.