Watering Gardens in the Heat

Here’s the deal on watering in the heat. So there’s been a heat wave and some inexperienced gardeners see their garden plants wilting and assume it’s a lack of water.

Before you water a wilting plant – put your finger on the soil to see if that soil is damp a few centimeters below the surface!

Plants wilt because they’re losing more moisture than they can pick up from their roots.

If there is adequate soil moisture, adding more isn’t going to make it any easier for the plant to survive, in fact it is only going to make the plant’s job harder. It’s called soil water saturation and this leads to root rot. And more wilting.

If there is adequate soil moisture, the appropriate action is to take a deep breath and allow the plant to recover on its own in the evening. A thick layer of mulch will help the soil temperature stay cool during heat spells and this in turn will keep the plant healthier

This is particularly true of container plants. Always finger-test the soil here before you water, particularly if you see wilting and during periods of high heat.

Overwatering creates root rots and wilting isn’t always a sign of a lack of water in the soil

3 thoughts on “Watering Gardens in the Heat”

  1. Good advice, however, not only are we having the heat (105 both days this past weekend), but we are in a serious drought. Maybe 1.5 inches of rain since June 1st, and not much rain in the forcast for the next week. Nearly impossible to keep up the watering.

  2. Greg: Drought and heat is a problem for gardeners. I’ve long said that plants may survive in drought but they don’t thrive in drought. I’ve been there, done that with a major nursery and a drought where I made a conscious decision to allow the display gardens to go very thirsty in order to keep the water flowing to the production side of things. Many of the plants that were supposed to be hardy in drought simply didn’t make the following year (not to mention looking bone-ugly that summer). But my harsh reality is that if you want to garden, you get to modify the environment to your garden’s needs (or change the design). Gardening isn’t a natural setting, it’s an artificial construct and water is part of that construct regardless of what we think.
    And if there’s a cost or government reason not to water, simply understand that plants don’t “get” that kind of restriction and there will be a price to be paid by gardeners. And I do understand these things are out of the control of some gardeners in areas that are under water stress. Their gardens will pay that price too.

  3. Well, I’m trying to keep up with the watering, but you are definitely right that plants may survive but not thrive – and boy do some of my plants look ugly! However, I’ve lived in this part of VA for most of my 54 years and know the weather around here. I’m finally looking into some simple drip irrigation, at least for the potted plants, and some of the annuals. My Zinnias, however, still look great!
    At least there are no water restrictions as the reservoir is at normal capacity due to a very wet March, and more thunderstorms over the watershed area. Just weird patterns as the storms dissipate as they get to my house, or they have gone 1/2 mile north, or 1/2 mile south. At least it has cooled off quite a bit. So I will be out there this evening sitting in my chair watering as much as I can. The rains will come again eventually.

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