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Watering Guide

Ways to keep your plants healthy

Balancing plant water needs is like having a healthy diet. Everything should be consumed in moderation. Provide your plants with enough water for good health, but don't flood them with it. Too much water can be more detrimental to a plant than not enough. Keep in mind that sandy soil drains faster than other types. 


The best way to know how water behaves in your soil is to dig a test hole one to two feet deep and fill with water. If it drains away in an hour or two you have excellent drainage. If it drains overnight, you have adequate drainage. If it stands any longer, you have poor drainage.


Set a rain gauge in an open area of your garden to learn how much water your garden receives in a week. After each rainfall, check the depth of the rain water inside. Many vegetable plants need one to two inches of water a week to thrive. 


The meters, which tell you if the soil is wet, moist, or dry at the root level, are especially effective for large potted plants


Watering in the mornings gives plants a chance absorb the moisture before the hot sun or strong winds evaporate the water. It also allows the leaves to dry before evening. Frequent wet foliage during the night can lead to fungal diseases.


Water timers are a great invention, but you should not automatically water your lawn and garden without checking the moisture. Too much water can be just as damaging to plants as too little water. Before watering, check your garden's soil moisture with your finger. Push it into the ground around your plants. You want the top 2 or 3 inches of the soil to be dry, and the soil below that to be moist.


If the soil clings to your fingers and feels moist to touch, don't water. If, soil falls loosely off your fingers and is dry to the touch, then it may need water. Put your finger down past the first knuckle, if it is dry, then water.


The best way to water is to apply it at a rate that the soil will absorb without runoff.  By watering deeply the first season, you'll help your plants to grow deep root systems.  Newly planted plants may need to be watered more often for the first few weeks. Check on them daily, but only water if needed.


In order to encourage healthy root growth you need to provide enough water to soak the entire root ball. An open hose placed at the base of a tree with the water flowing slowly will provide needed water to the root zone. A thorough watering should last 30-60 minutes, depending on the size of the root ball.


In hot weather containers may need to be watered every day sometimes twice a day depending on the size of the pot. Water until the water comes out the drainage hole at the bottom. It is important to remember not to let containers sit in water. Always make sure their saucers are empty and that you have good drainage.  Remember that you will need to feed your container plants frequently as the fertilizer will leach out of the soil ball with frequent watering.


Mulching reduces surface runoff and slows evaporation along with reducing weed problems. As an added bonus mulching may also prevent certain kinds of soil diseases from coming into contact with your plants leaves, and it makes the garden look tidy, too.

McKinley Garden Center

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