Watering Your Plants
Believe it or not, one of the simplest aspects of gardening — watering your plants — is often the most difficult to master. More water is not always a good thing in the garden. Sometimes people drown their plants beyond recovery. Knowing when and how to water, as well as the signs of under- and overwatering, are key to avoiding one of the most common plant problems you’re likely to encounter.
- Keep in mind that not all plants require the same amount of water. Cacti, natives and other drought-tolerant species can go for a month or more without water and are extra sensitive to root rot. These plants are most susceptible to overwatering.
- If you have an automatic irrigation system, set up different zones: one for trees, one for your lawn and one for natives. Arrange to have them run for appropriate amounts of time.
- The symptoms of under-and overwatering are very similar: both include wilting, yellowing and dropping of the leaves. Crisp or brown leaf edges are more indicative of underwatering, while soft, limp leaves are more indicative of overwatering.
- If you suspect a plant is receiving too much or too little water, feel the soil at its base. If it is still moist, the plant is receiving more than enough water. If it is completely dry, give the plant a light watering to see if it perks up.
- A plant will respond to even a little bit of water within just a few hours. If your plant does not improve with the addition of water, avoid the urge to water further. Less is more. A plant that is underwatered can always be given more water, but once root rot sets in, it is almost impossible to save.
- Various factors affect how often a plant will need to be watered. In direct sun, a plant will require more water than in shade. Clay soils require less water than loose, sandy soils. And in winter, plants often need less than half the water they need in summer.
- Deep, infrequent watering is better for plants than light, frequent watering. Let a hose or drip irrigation soak the soil around a tree or shrub for up to 15 minutes. This allows the water to penetrate deep into the soil and encourages the plant to grow strong roots. Brief surface watering encourages shallow roots and allows the water to evaporate quickly, which translates to wasted water and unstable plants.
- When watering plants in pots or indoors, irrigate until water runs out the drainage hole at the base of the pot. This ensures that all the soil is saturated. In general, it is not recommended to use planters without holes, as this encourages water stagnation and root rot.
Delen Kitchen, Horticulturalist
Mooch Exterior Designs
3302 32nd St.,
San Diego, CA 92104