County gardener

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In Delaware, during late spring, early summer, and like last year in late summer, we have experienced drought conditions. Therefore, the following article will provide you with some tips on how and when to water your garden and landscape plants.

Sprinklers

When using sprinklers, keep the water pattern even by moving the sprinkler frequently and overlapping about one-half of each pattern. Place oscillating sprinklers higher than the plants to prevent water from being diverted by plant leaves. Do not apply water faster than the soil can absorb it. Be sure the sprinkler is not watering the sidewalk, street, or any other paved surface.

Soaker hoses

There is a variety of special soaker hoses available. These can reduce water-loss due to evaporation and run-off and generally do not cost more than normal garden hoses. Perforated plastic hoses or soaker hoses should be placed with holes facing downward along one side of the crop row or underneath mulch. Water will slowly soak in the soil without wetting foliage, thus decreasing evaporation and the risk of foliage-fungal diseases.

Trickle or drip irrigation

Trickle or drip irrigation is very efficient since it applies water to each plant’s root zone at a rate consistent with its moisture requirements. It can reduce water use by as much as 50% to 80% compared to overhead irrigation. Another advantage of this system is that foliage stays dry, reducing the potential for foliage disease problems.

IT IS BEST to water early in the morning and then water only when needed. When watering, fill the entire root area and then allow the soil to partially dry out before the next watering. The speed of drying depends on the type of plant, the plant size, the type of soil and weather conditions (sunny and windy conditions dry faster).

A small or newly established plant will need watering every few days to one week. Since seeds and seedlings should never be allowed to dry, they need more frequent watering. A vegetable garden should be watered when the soil within one inch of the surface feels dry to the touch. Once plants are established, watering may be frequent to encourage the roots to grow deeper. This can be done by gradually extending the length of time between watering.

In closing, to avoid wasting our valuable natural resources, it is very important to provide the correct amount and proper method of watering to ensure healthy vigorous plants.