Obviously water is essential for growing healthy and hearty plants that produce plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for you. But doing it the right way is important to ensure you receive the results you want from your garden.
Watering isn’t as simple as you might think, and if you’re making the 9 watering mistakes listed below, you could be reducing the productivity of your garden, or even encouraging disease and weakening your plants.
Here are 9 watering mistakes to watch out for in your garden – you may be surprised to learn how many of these you’ve been making!
Mistake #1: Using Softened Water
According to Mary Bachert, a landscape design professional in Macungie, PA, the number one water-related problem she sees is plants killed by softened water. “Lots of homeowners have hard water, so they install whole-house water softener systems and have their outside water tap hooked up to the system so it won’t leave water spots when they wash their cars,” says Bachert. “Unfortunately, they use that same water on their yard and the plants die of salt poisoning.” Unless you live at the seaside and grow only native salt-tolerant plants, hook your hose up to an untreated tap or a rain barrel.
Mistake #2: Relying On Sprinkler Systems
Ignoring automatic sprinklers after their initial setup is another common cause of watering-related damage….
Mistake #3: Providing Frequent “Quick Drinks”
I shudder when I see Joe or Jill Homeowner with a handheld hose happily spraying their plants, doing little more than getting the leaves wet. Plants drink with their roots, and you need to get the water to those roots—deep in the soil—to do any good. For established plants, you need to add enough water, and do so slowly enough, so that it soaks in about 6 to 8 inches for veggies and perennials, and 12 inches for trees and shrubs.
Slow, deep waterings once or twice a week encourage plants to grow long, efficient roots, and make the plants strong, healthy, and drought-resistant….
Mistake #4: Letting New Seeds And Plants Dry Out
Newly planted seeds and plants are the exception to the “no quick drinks” rule. Until plants have had time to grow roots deep into the natural soil, they need to be watered frequently. For seeds and tiny new seedlings, that means watering lightly as needed—perhaps even every few hours in hot weather—to keep the surface of the soil moist at all times. Gradually decrease the frequency as roots grow. And be sure the soil below the moist surface layer isn’t dry, or the roots will never grow deep, leaving your plants dependent on you for frequent waterings.
Mistake #5: Watering Too Fast
It takes time for water to soak into the soil, especially dry soil. Water that runs off over the surface of the soil is a waste of water, time, and energy. Use soaker hoses or drip systems to slowly apply water over a large area for maximum efficiency (bonus: you won’t have to stand around holding the hose).
Mistake #6: Watering Only The Stem
It’s easy to forget how far roots extend out and down from the stem or trunk—in general roots tend to reach as wide as the branches do… Water the whole area under a plant or tree, plus a little bit more (to grow into).
Mistake #7: Watering The Leaves
As I frequently tell the kids at the elementary school garden I help with: “Leaves don’t drink, roots do; so put the water where the roots are.” Wet leaves also make happy homes for many plant diseases. Don’t be a leaf waterer; direct water on and into the soil as much as possible.
Mistake #8: Watering During The Hottest Part Of The Day…
The best time to water is early morning while the air is at its coolest—this allows plants to drink deeply before the heat of the day and the sun to quickly dry off any water that splashes on the leaves, reducing disease problems.
Mistake #9: Watering Naked Soil
Water evaporates into the air from moist soil and is lost. A layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips, bark nuggets, straw, or dry grass clippings, creates a barrier that slows this process, keeping the soil moist longer from the same amount of watering. Mulch also speeds water absorption, encourages the soil microorganisms that keep plants healthy and happy, keeps down the weeds, and makes your life easier… Say no to naked soil.