Watering Tips and Tricks

A well-watered plant is a healthy plant. Plants absorb critical nutrients like nitrogen, phosophorus, calcium and magnesium in their dissolved forms. So, while water plays a crucial role in photosynthesis, it's also necessary for plant roots to absorb vital nutrients. Watering may seem simple and intuitive, but it actually takes a bit of skill to do well. However, following a few simple watering tips can put you well on your way to a fit and fluid ecosystem.

  • Determine your soil type. Is it clay or sandy? Soil type can make a huge difference in drainage and frequency of watering. Dense clay drains very slowly and allows little opportunity for plant roots to exchange critical nutrients and gases through air passages. Sandy soil, however, drains much more quickly, but can potentially pull nutrients away from roots. Add compost and other organic materials to create fertile, loamy soil.
  • Don't underwater or overwater. Overwatering drowns and chokes plant roots by barring access to the air they need. Conversely, underwatering dehydrates plants, prohibits them from absorbing nutrients and causes them to wilt and die.
  • Water in the early morning or early evening. Cooler temperatures prevent water from evaporating as quickly as it does in the daytime. Watering in the early morning lets water droplets that have beaded on leaves gradually evaporate in the warming sunshine. Waiting to water until the afternoon is damaging, as bright sunshine refracts off water droplets and can potentially scorch plant leaves. You should generally avoid watering plant leaves, particularly at night, as it allows water to soak into the plant and makes it susceptible to fungi and disease.
  • Don't get tricked by drooping leaves in the afternoon. Plants protect themselves from the heat and conserve water by displaying less surface area to the sun. If you see the same plants drooping in the morning, however, water the roots generously but not overzealously.
  • Water deeply, water slowly, water weekly. As a general rule, your lawn and garden plants need about 1" of water per week to promote healthy growth. For optimal growth, you want to moisten soil 6" to 8" deep once a week. This builds stronger plants by ensuring that roots reach downward and outward rather than upward. Watering lightly and frequently is less ideal, because it prohibits water from seeping deep into soil and encourages shallow roots that reach upward for nutrients. Always remember to water your plants steadily throughout the season. Dramatic jumps from wet to dry can hurt plant growth and decrease fruit or vegetable quality. Consider laying down a layer of mulch to help keep soil consistently moist.


The Dirt from Troy-Bilt®, May/June 2014