One of the first things you have to do is water garden plants properly in your own garden. Because let’s be honest – there are some plants that will survive without adequate water but there are no plants that will thrive without adequate water.
Surviving is not thriving (and flowering) so this isn’t a sexy topic, but it is a critically important one.
Blossoms are over 90 percent water and the first symptom of water stress in a plant is to reduce flowering so gardeners would do well to understand these basics.
How Does Water Really Work in Plants
- Luckily for gardeners, water is the universal solvent. This means that more things will dissolve in water (eventually) than any other liquid including acids.
- Soak something in water long enough and it will dissolve.
- Not only that but water tends to stick together in drops rather than spread out evenly in a thin film. This stickiness is called capillary action.
- When we combine the stickiness of water with its ability to dissolve minerals and fertilizer salts, this means that plants can suck food up into their leaves. As one molecule rises up the tree, it literally drags other molecules behind it.
- You can see this work in your own kitchen. If you put an edge of paper towel into a bowl of water, the water will “climb” the paper towel. This is capillary action at its best and it is why watering the bottom of houseplants is often recommended. The water will eventually climb up the soil into the top of the pot and evenly water the plant.
Rule #1 For Irrigating the Garden
Gardeners want to use water in adequate amounts for their plants.
The number one rule in growing containers, whether they are hanging baskets, small houseplant pots or giant whiskey barrels is that every time you water the pot, you continue watering until at least 30% of the water has gone out the bottom of the pot. We want to soak the pot with each watering.
My own kids learned this, often the hard way, when we had the nursery. When they watered the hundreds of pots of perennials sitting on the benches, each one had to be watered so the water came out the bottom of the pot.
The monotony of watering properly wasn’t one of their favorite greenhouse tasks.
The success of your containers is clearly related to how well and deeply you water your plants.
Average Gardens Need
- Most recommendations for watering your garden call for between one to one and a half inches of water every week.
- It is best to apply this in two applications of three quarters of an inch spaced several days apart rather than a single weekly application.
It is bad gardening practice to water every day once plants are established. It is only during the establishment period that we water our ornamental plants daily.
World’s Record Rainfall
By the way, the world’s record for rain belongs to Mt. Waialeale, in Hawaii, where the average rainfall is 450 inches per year, its single year record is 642 inches during one twelve-month period.
Let’s Understand Water A Bit Better
H2O is the familiar chemical representation of water and we all know that this means water is composed of one atom of oxygen bound to two atoms of hydrogen. Water pours or comes out of hoses or goes up a plant because of the arrangement of these molecules.
You see, the hydrogen atoms are on one side of the molecule (they’re negatively charged) and the oxygen is on the other (it is positively charged) and so each molecule of water acts like a mini-magnet.
All these mini-magnets stick together to form a water drop.
As an aside, did you know that a drop of water is shaped like a teardrop because gravity sucks it downwards. Without gravity, a drop of water would be round like a ball.
How Much Water Is In Rain?
- During a rainstorm when the weather guys say we received an inch of rain, we actually received 27,154 gallons of water onto each acre of lawn.
- Just for the record, this water weighed in at 113 tons or 226,192 pounds.
- This is a useful way of remembering how much water your lawn requires because the average lawn is going to require this amount of water every 5 to 7 days.
How to Measure How Much Your Sprinkler Is Really Producing
Set up the sprinkler, put a short plastic container inside the water pattern and turn it on.
Let it run for a half hour and then measure the depth of water in the container. This depth is your rate of water per half hour. If your depth was one quarter of an inch and you want to apply three quarters, the time to sprinkle is one and a half hours for each section of the garden.
We use a sprinkler because it is more uniform than hand watering. Hand watering is fine for containers and individual plants but for soaking a garden or lawn, a sprinkler is the tool of choice for watering your garden.
Besides who wants to stand there carrying 113 tons of water every week?
How To Measure Your Drip Irrigation Output
Put your length of hose into a 5-gallon pail.
Measure the amount of time it takes to fill up the pail.
Decide how many gallons you need for each plant. Now you know how many gallons your garden requires – and how long it takes to put 5 gallons onto it.
Divide the number of gallons by 5 and you’re in business.
Note: Drip irrigation takes a LOT longer than you might think to fully water a garden.