Stressed about watering?
To be a healthy eater, you plan what you are going to eat, taking in quality food. And you portion it right. But every meal is not a calculation -- because that sucks the fun out of it. And it isn't necessary. There are too many factors, it's incredibly difficult to take them all in.
Watering is like eating right.
For plants, the factors are what season it is, how much light they are getting, how hot or cool it is, the drainage of your soil (does it pool up or dry out quickly?), and that specific plant's requirements.
For example, raspberries and blueberries love water -- especially as they develop fruits. They would love two inches a week during this time, which is the equivalent of a couple days of soaking rain.
If you aren't clear on what an inch of rain looks like, consider buying a rain gauge to place in your yard. That way you can tell if that overnight rain reached the roots of your plants or was a barely quarter-inch sprinkle.
All plants need water, but some can handle drought better, and some prefer to dry out before another deep watering -- like succulents.
With plants, you can see when they need water because their leaves wilt, curl, and droop. When they look sad, that's a good time to make them happy with some water.
If the plant is dry for too long the leaves brown and turn crispy. You don't want things to get to that point. Watering is one way to prevent die-back.
In the garden, mulch is the ally of moisture retention. Like a blanket, it keeps the soil cool and prevents evaporation from the surface. Along with mulch, soil that is enriched with compost and organic matter holds much more water.
For every 1% of organic matter, your soil can hold 1.5 quarts more water per cubic foot.
Composting and mulching are your friends.
A dear friend who works with UMASS Agricultural extension gave me some sage advice about watering, true to her Latina/Catholic background. She told me to water deeply when I first plant, lay down mulch, then give the plant my blessing (at which point she made the sign of the cross) and tell it that's all it's getting. Of course, in times like these, you may want to give it some more. The idea is that instead of constant, small waterings, which promote shallow, sideways root growth, you want the plant to put roots down deep to secure its moisture. This will increase its resistance to drought. It's also less work.
Right now, the Pioneer Valley area is somewhere between moderate and severe drought, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center. These trying times call for more frequent (deep) waterings, sometimes every day, and especially to newly transplanted trees and shrubs. But, this is a bad time to plant anything -- transplants need more consistent moisture than established plantings.
So water deeply, hold off on moving plants around, and most importantly, keep an eye on them. Part of gardening "expertise" is in the keen observation of your garden over time. Your plants will let you know when they need water. Happy gardening, and cross your fingers for rain.
(And buy a rain barrel now if you don't already have one;)
What have YOU been doing for your plants to help them withstand this drought? Noticed anything interesting about their response to the dryness of the summer, positive or negative? Tell us what you're seeing by clicking on the title above.