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Watering 101

Watering 101

Last week we had our employee training day at HCG, which gathers everyone together to jump-start the growing season. One of the things on the list every year to to bring all of our Green Team members up to speed on some of the issues that concern our customers. On the agenda this year, was watering.

Here is what we talked about.

Why should we care about watering?
Watering is the #1 Place where people go wrong with plants – too little or too much: either will kill plants.

What do we all need to know?
Watering too frequently for a short time creates shallow root systems. (Typical for automatic irrigation systems.) Plants with shallow roots are more vulnerable to pests, storms, winter-kill and drought.

Frequent Splashing and Leaf Fungus
Watering too frequently causes leaf spot and other fungal problems on all plants. Every lawn disease in the book lists too much/frequent water as a contributing or causing factor.

Ideal Rainfall
If Mother Nature provides an inch of rain (measured in a rain gauge in a 24 hour period) we wouldn’t have to water established plants. A rain gauge is a must-have tool for every homeowner. An inch of water in a can, bucket or wheelbarrow isn’t the same measurement because the openings are larger. A rain gauge measures a cubic inch of rain as it falls on a square inch of soil and the opening and markings are calibrated for that.

Weekly, Deeply
A deep, longer soaking less often is better than a little every other day. Deep watering makes deeper root systems. How long does it take to get a deep soaking? It depends on how much your your irrigation system or sprinklers deliver…so there’s no one answer to this that will be correct for everyone. Place your rain gauge out under your sprinkler and measure how much your system is delivering in a half hour.

Stop Hand Watering!
Hand watering is fine for newly placed plants and seedlings but is never enough for established plants – if you hand water you’re just wasting your time and the water used. People get bored long before a deep soaking is delivered, and they direct water only to the center of the plant. Roots go out beyond the drip-line on all plants…hand watering never addresses this well.

What about containers?
Watering containers too quickly leaves bottom or interior roots dry. Very dry containers have space between the soil and the container, and water runs out that space. Water a dry pot or box well, then come back in a few minutes and do it again.

More Tips for our customers:
Get a timer so you can set a sprinkler for a long time.

Use a sprinkler under trees and soak deeply once a week, instead of hand-watering at the base of the tree only.

Wrap a soaker hose around newly planted shrubs or trees, and coil it beyond the drip-line so that the soil to the sides of the rootball get soaked too. That way the roots will grow into the area around the rootball.

Apply an inch of compost or composted manure around all plants once a year. Top that with an inch or two of mulch.

Don’t have a rain gauge? Come on into the store and pick one up – then you’ll be in the know and prepared for smart watering!

You might notice that some rain gauges have the One Inch mark higher than an inch. That's because these gauges have larger opening on top. The markings are calibrated to accurately measure one cubic inch of rain that falls on one square inch of soil.

You might notice that some rain gauges have the One Inch mark higher than an inch. That’s because these gauges have larger opening on top. The markings are calibrated to accurately measure one cubic inch of rain that falls on one square inch of soil.

Green Team member Alan Budney knows that container plants need more than a "lick and a promise." A dry container might need two soakings in order to saturate the root ball. He also knows that sometimes it's necessary to stick that watering-wand under the leaves so that he's sure that the water is drenching the soil, not the foliage.

Green Team member Alan Budney knows that container plants need more than a “lick and a promise.” A dry container might need two soakings in order to saturate the root ball. He also knows that sometimes it’s necessary to stick that watering-wand under the leaves so that he’s sure that the water is drenching the soil, not the foliage.

One problem with automatic irrigation is that sometimes it comes on in less-than-optimal conditions. Here you can see that strong winds are carrying the water up into the air and away from the lawn! This homeowner might assume the irrigation watered the turf but in truth the water blew away.

One problem with automatic irrigation is that sometimes it comes on in less-than-optimal conditions. Here you can see that strong winds are carrying the water up into the air and away from the lawn! This homeowner might assume the irrigation watered the turf but in truth the water blew away.

2 Comments

  1. Jan Roberts on March 23, 2017 at 10:48 am

    There is a newly-owned, newly landscaped property near me whose road-side young hydrangeas are watered every day for a short time and where much of the water runs down the street.
    I observed this every day driving down the street, but I live on another street and can’t imagine approaching this new owner with my watering message, so, I think I will have to content myself with telling you!

    • CLFornari on March 23, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      We’ve all had the experience of seeing irrigation that isn’t aimed well, is on too little or too much, or set to deliver water in the evening or some other less-than-ideal time. Frustrating, indeed. But there isn’t too much to be done about it.

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