When it comes to watering, most people will enjoy spending half an hour giving their garden plants a well deserved spray while, they in turn, get a chance to soak up the natural beauty of their planting designs at a more leisurely pace. This is no more true than on a warm summers evening when garden after garden is subjected to an almost ballerina –esque display of watering techniques – most of which ends up with watering just the leaves or more-so themselves rather than getting the water were it is actually needed, which is of course the roots!
Some will see this daily practice as a therapy to a stressful day at work while others believe that without fulfilling their conscientious watering duties their cosseted plants will die. However the truth about most plants is that so long as the planting preparation has been done correctly they will often do far better when left to their own devices.
Although it would be foolish to leave newly planted specimens without at least some additional watering during a hot, dry summer period, over-watering can often be a greater cause of plant death - rather than a lack of water - as a waterlogged soil can effectively ‘drown’ the plants fine root-hairs which are used to draw up both water and nutrients into the main body of the plant.
There is another problem that can occur from regularly watering the leaves and that is the increased travel of fungal infection on susceptible plants. Fungal spores germinate in conditions of high humidity and are often spread via water droplets. By watering in the evenings it is difficult for the water to naturally evaporate as it would do during the heat of the day and so high humidity within the leaf canopies of mature shrubs can persist all throughout the night and into the beginning of the day creating ideal extended conditions for fungal spore production.
1. Resist the temptation to water every day as this can promote water-logging and cause fibrous roots to grow towards the soil surface instead of downward towards the water table. In dry spells this makes it difficult for the plant to cope, unable to source water that is deeper within the soil.
2. Try to water no more than once a week, but when you do make sure that you give your plants a good soaking. This will help to encourage deeper root growth making your plants far more capable of tolerating periods of drought by sourcing their water from the natural water table.
3. Water in the mornings if possible and preferably before 11:00am. This can help to reduce leaf scorching on fine leaved plants as is often witnessed on Japanese Acers and allow high humidities with plant canopies to dry off during the heat of the main part of the day. Leaf scorching can occur when a resting water droplet acts like a lens. They are able to magnify sunlight and heat onto the leaf surface, killing the living cells within. This will result in unsightly brown spots on the leaves where the cells below have died.
4. Avoid spraying the leaves of plants – especially in the evenings – as this can help spread fungal infections on susceptible plants.
6. When watering your plants, place the hose so that it is as close to the ground as possible. That way as much of the water as possible can get to where it is needed most - the roots!
7. When using spray guns or adjustable nozzles always use a soft spray especially when watering container grown plants. Using a highly focused jet may be able to penetrate deeper into the soil but it will also rip up thin roots damaging those all important 'root-hairs' which - if the plant has no-longer attached -will then be unable to take up the water you have supplied.
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