Water •n wa·ter (waw-ter)
The state of being lighted or illuminated.
Water is the essential ingredient for healthy plant growth in the garden. It is also generally people’s biggest challenge. Consider that like humans, plants need water in order to live a healthy and full life. Every drop counts… play your part in helping the environment by watering effectively and preventing water shortages.
If you have an irrigation system- thumbs up! It takes the guesswork out of watering. There are many different forms of irrigation systems. Depending on your garden, there are advantages and disadvantages to these systems. We highly recommend irrigation systems in general, as they eliminate the monotonous task of watering. They also take the guess work out of the age old question “Is it our watering day?” Irrigation systems offer water directly to the roots (where your plants need it most) making them more energy efficient than standard watering. We solely work with Kore Irrigation to custom plan an irrigation that best suits the design we have specced for your space. Every plant type and size has different watering requirements, so sophisticated irrigation systems that are well planned ensure water is distributed correctly and effectively.
The second best option to a full-scale irrigation system is a soaker hose. These are easy to find & install and they do a great job of watering the roots. The downsides are, they can often get punctured and generally don’t add much in terms of curb appeal to your lovely new beds. We find soaker hoses work best for long spaces like hedges and bamboo.
And… there is always the traditional sprinkler! Overhead watering with sprinklers is really fun for kids to play in, but not the most effective for water use. A lot of the water gets wasted, small spaces get soaked everywhere, and the plants tend to receive more water on their foliage then directly to the root. But if you cannot invest in an irrigation system and are able to set up a few zones of sprinklers to water direct to the beds, then this is better than nothing!
Hand watering takes time but permits you to see what needs water the most. It is best used as a quick fix during any dry spells that may occur after your regular irrigation system is shut off for the season. A wand attachment delivers a lot of water, but softly, which is a good thing. If waiting on an irrigation system to be put in place, newly installed plants will do best with direct hand watering in the first few weeks of their new homes!
Rain barrels are also a great addition to any garden space. They are best installed against a house, shed, garage or greenhouse; under an area where gutters can reach the system. You can hook the barrels up to a hose or a small drip irrigation system, which then feeds water to your plants. Or you can simply use it as a tap to fill up a watering can. This is a great way to harvest water, as it will soon become as precious as gold!
When Should I Water?
Be conscious of the rain, use it where it falls and give your plants enough to nourish the earth. Watering first thing in the morning is most recommended. Night watering can harbor spots for pests and disease and midday watering in the summer can scorch some foliage and become a defeating chore.
How Much Should I Water?
The best way to tell when your garden needs watering is to look at it. If the soil is dry to a depth of a half an inch, it's time to water. How often you need to water varies greatly with the temperature. Normally, watering once a week will probably be more than adequate in the off season. When temperatures hit the mid 20s-30s you will need to water as often as every other day and every day for newly planted specimens (for the first few weeks). Keep in mind that all young plants require more frequent watering than mature plants until their root systems become well established. As well, many annuals and vegetables require regular moisture throughout the growing season if they are to bloom well or produce a good crop. When you do water, aim to soak the root zone of your plants. It is better to water thoroughly once every few days than to give your garden a brief shower every day. Keep in mind, you can most definitely water too much.
Too Much Water
Giving plants too much water can cause as many problems as supplying too little. The soil remains filled with water, and air is not available to the roots. The lack of oxygen makes roots susceptible to various water-mold fungi, which in turn can lead to rot. How do you know if your plant is drowning? Have you been watering only when the surface of the soil is dry to the touch? Is your plant looking light green and generally unhappy? One possible reason for this is over-watering. While both of these foliage indicators are symptoms of over-watering, the most common way someone figures out their plant is drowning is that the plant has wilted even though the soil is wet.
Weather affects water needs as well. When it's hot, dry, and windy, plants use water very rapidly, and young or shallow-rooted ones sometimes cannot absorb water fast enough to keep foliage from wilting. Such plants need frequent watering to keep moisture around their roots at all times. During cool, damp weather, on the other hand, plants require much less water. Water needs are lower during winter as well, when the days are short and the sun is low on the horizon. To check the soil around new transplants and in vegetable and flower beds, dig down a few inches with your fingers or a trowel; if the top 1 to 2 inches are dry, you probably need to water. Leaves can also tell you when it's time to water. Most will look dull or roll in at the edges just before they wilt.
Keep a close eye on all newly planted perennials during the first growing season. The soil around their roots should be moist, but not soaking wet, for the first two weeks. For the next two weeks or so, water when 2 inches below the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. To establish durable and deep rooted systems, water slowly and deeply rather than frequently and shallowly. If you are growing perennials or evergreens in containers, be sure they are well watered before storing or covering them for the winter. Evergreens are especially vulnerable to winter desiccation if soils dry out during the winter.
Trees and Shrubs
The soil surrounding the plant’s roots, called the “root zone,” serves as a storage tank from which the plant draws moisture and nutrients. Most trees and shrubs shed rain water to the “drip line,” much like an umbrella. The most active water absorption area is at the drip line and beyond, not close to the trunk. This is where you should water. Most of the roots spread 1 1\2 to 4 times as wide as the plant’s canopy. If you are watering by hand, water each shrub about 2-15 minutes, depending on its size, and each tree about 20-60 minutes. During the winter, irrigate only if there has not been any precipitation for four to six weeks.
Tips for Containers
Check Moisture Level - Before watering plants, check to see if your plant really needs it - the top of the soil can look dry, even though just below the soil line it is still moist. Stick your finger into the soil all the way to the second knuckle. If it feels dry at your fingertip, your plants need water.
Water Deeply - The most important thing when watering plants is to give them a good, long drink - optimally, until water runs out the hole in the bottom of your container. You do this because, depending on the size of your pot, many of the plant's roots will be down towards the bottom and you want them to be able to get water too. Water the Soil, Not the Leaves. Water droplets can act like mini-magnifying glasses and burn your plant.
Know Your Plants - Most plants prefer to live in moist soil, not wet, just damp. As a rule of thumb, flowering annuals don't like to get too dry and require water daily in the summer months. Succulents (annuals in our climate) like to be fairly dry and thrive off drought-like conditions. Perennials really vary depending upon species. Watering every other day in the hot months is ideal, and then 1-2 week in the cooler months if it hasn’t rained well. Consistent watering is critical – not letting them go bone dry and then soaking them till they’re drowning – this on/off cycle is hazardous and sometimes fatal to plants! (which is why most people say they don’t have a green thumb). Along these lines, with containerized tree/shrubs/hedges, being larger plants, ensure your drip irrigation system (or hand watering) provides enough water for larger-water-drinking species.
Before any watering takes place in the dryer summers, be sure to check the City of Vancouver website for any water restrictions that may be in effect. Assure you are properly watering within the guidelines that allow for both humans and plants to drink!