Watering Your Garden

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Watering is the most important task in maintaining foliage and flowering plants. When and how much to water, as well as water quality, all impact plant quality and life.

Our gardens are living environments that are constantly changing depending on a number of factors. Influences such as the species of the plants we’re growing, their size, where the roots can spread to, the type of soil they’re in and the environmental conditions they’re experiencing make a big difference in how our plants perform. Although we like to keep on schedule, these influences have to be considered and planned for if we want to be successful in the garden.

In addition, you can target the timing and amount of water to apply. Generally speaking, water is most critical during seed germination, the first few weeks of development, immediately after transplanting, and during flowering and fruit production. It’s important to apply the water the soil root zone and try to keep water off of the leaves of the plant to reduce the spread diseases and damage.

Learn about the quality of the water you use to irrigate your garden and where it comes from. The quality of irrigation water is dependent on total salt content, the nature of salts present in solution and the proportion of sodium to calcium, magnesium, bicarbonates and other cations. Factors such as salts, pH and alkalinity determine the suitability of water for use on our foliage and flowering plants.

For example, rain water is ideal for use on plants. Since it contains few contaminants, rain water is among the most desirable water sources to use on foliage and flowering plants. In the case of tap water, wells & surface water makes up the majority of municipal water systems. This water can vary in quality, resulting in salt burn and other similar injuries. Be sure you know the quality of your tap water before using it on any foliage or flowering plants.

What is pH? pH is a measurement of the concentration of hydrogen ions (H+) in solution. Since this represents a logarithmic expression, H+ concentration at pH 6.0 is 10 times greater than at pH 7.0 and 100 times greater than at pH 8.0. In this relationship, pH has no direct effect on plant growth, but it does affect the form/availability of nutrients in irrigation water, fertilizer solutions and the soil. If the nutrients are present, but not available to your plant for uptake, the plant can not benefit from them, so their health and vigor suffer. Generally speaking, the pH of irrigation water should be within the range of 5.5 – 6.5. These levels enhance the solubility of most micronutrients and avoids a steady increase in the pH of the soil.

For more information on how to protect water quality in your garden please review the NSCU publication: “ A Gardener’s Guide to Protecting Water Quality” located at  http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/a-gardeners-guide-to-protecting-water-quality

If you are interested in making your own rain barrel, a workshop will be offered at North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County on April 29, 2016 from 10 a.m. -12 p.m. The fee for the class is $35 and includes all materials. Payment must be by check or cash. Registration fee must be paid 5 days prior to the training at the Extension office, 2420 Tramway Road, Sanford, NC 27332. Participants must provide their own vehicle to transport the completed 2’x 4’- 50-gallon rain barrel.

Also, please help us better understand your needs as a Gardener by taking an online survey at https://lee.ces.ncsu.edu/categories/lawn-garden/ click on Garden Survey under Learn More Using the Resources Below. Targeted training and other programming will be developed based on your input, so please tell us how we can best serve you.

Minda Daughtry is Extension Agent, Horticulture, at North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.