Watering During Dry Spells and Managing Plant Stress

Sudden heat, with soaring temperatures, creates demand for moisture which cannot always be met on short notice by the root systems of many plants. The result is burnt blossoms, damaged foliage and fruit drop. Fortunately, there are ways of minimizing the problems caused by this sudden fluctuation in weather.

Your plants need water, but so many folks will lose plants from poor watering practices, such as over-watering, watering at the wrong time of day which can cause plant diseases and not watering thoroughly. Watering is an art, and when done well, will help plants thrive and at the same time will preserve this precious resource.

  • Always water in the early morning as the temperature is on the rise. Doing so will allow plants to make the most efficient use of the water, and they will not transpire the moisture away as they will with evening watering. Check with your local municipality for any watering restrictions during the dry summer months: City of Chilliwack Water Restrictions.
  • When you water, make sure that you water thoroughly and that the water penetrates deep into the soil so the moisture goes down to the roots where it is needed. Thorough watering will encourage roots to grow deep and be less dependent on frequent watering.
  • Make sure to mulch all your trees and shrubs with suitable material. Our preferred choice is always fir or hemlock bark mulch. Bark is a wonderful insulator, it looks great and makes a fine soil amendment. A covering of three to four inches around all your plant material will prevent a great deal of stress, especially for shallow-rooted plants like rhododendrons.
  • Lawns, too, only need to be watered once a week during hot weather, but again, make sure you let the water penetrate down to the roots so they grow deep and the grass becomes more self-sufficient. A little browning is not a bad thing. When the rains return, the green colour will reappear rather quickly.
  • Vegetable gardens are the most challenging in the heat. If you always water in the morning and water only the root zones of all your plants, this will go a long ways to prevent diseases like mildew, botrytis and even blight on potatoes and tomatoes.
  • Shallow and frequent watering makes not only your vegetable plants but also your annuals and perennials less self-sufficient and more dependent on watering - so water deeply to push those roots down.
  • Water planters and baskets thoroughly in the morning so they're less stressed during the day. But before you water them again, feel the weight of the basket and make sure it feels light. If it feels heavy, it is already wet enough, and you should wait until it dries out before watering again. Over-watering is worse than under-watering because the roots may rot with too much water, especially with fuchsias.
  • With planters and baskets, it's important to feed more frequently because you're leaching out nutrients every time you water. This is where slow-release fertilizers, like 14-14-14, play such an important role in keeping your baskets continually fed, especially when we water so often at this time of the year.
  • Try to move away from overhead sprinklers and towards root soaking systems. They are much more efficient and are great water conservers. It only makes sense to water where the plants are versus soaking everything! Soaker hoses and drip systems are the most effective way to save you time and to use less water.
  • With proper soil preparation, mulching and watering, all our garden plants should be able to withstand both heat and water restrictions. To conserve water, we all need to change the way we use water around our homes, even collecting it in rain barrels from our eave troughs when it rains.

Minter Country Garden Store

10015 Young Road North
Chilliwack, BC V2P 4V4

Tel: 604.792.6612
Office: 604.792.3799
Toll free: 1.800.661.3919

This article copyright © 2014 Brian Minter and Country Garden Ltd.

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