Tricounty News

Watering your landscape

By Janelle Daberkow,

U of M Extension

A common question received in the Extension office is: "How often should I be watering my plants?" There are many variables when it comes to watering your yard and gardens; including the weather, the amount of sun the area receives, using a sprinkler vs. soaker hose, humidity level and, most importantly, the soil and plant material you are watering.

So how do you determine the frequency and rate for watering? As a rule of thumb, water infrequently (once or twice a week) and give plants a deep thorough soaking amount of water. Frequent, shallow watering causes plants to produce shallow roots that cannot survive heat and dry conditions that we experience commonly in the summer months. Watering deeply and infrequently causes plant roots to grow deeply into the soil in search of water, resulting in deeply rooted more drought tolerant plants.

Over-watering can be as detrimental to plant health as under watering can be. Typical gardens require about one inch of water per week, depending on the plant material and soil type. Over-watering plants creates conditions that are detrimental to plant health and invites diseases such as root rots and Verticillium to take hold. Roots of plants require oxygen in addition to needing water. Over watering fills in the pores between soil particles, creating conditions that are anaerobic, or without air. Watering too much can quite literally, suffocate plants roots. Allow time for soils to dry between watering to avoid this situation. A method for determining whether plants need water is to inspect the top 6-8 inches of soil. Roots of most herbaceous plants are in the top 8-12 inches of soil. Clay soils hold water for a longer time between the soil pores, and sandy soils will release water more rapidly. In both cases, organic matter should be added to the soil in order to improve its structure and increase soil's water holding capacity for sand and allow for more air space in clay soils. The ideal soil for plants is a loam that drains well but has the ability to sustain nutrients and moisture too.

Using mulches around plants can help retain moisture, as well as suppress weeds, and increase soil fertility through the decomposition of organic mulches.

Above all, do the homework on your site before incorporating in new plants and sites for plants. A soil test can go a long way to help decide the types of plants that can thrive in the soil at your site. Consider the amount of sun each site receives as well as location in relation to a water source. Doing the work now, can help to save yourself from aggravation later!